Karen, age 44
For Karen, living with mental illness is a constant struggle. She’s been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, anxiety, a depressive disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder with hoarding. She describes her mental illness as feeling like “a constant problem. I can't help the way I feel, and that's confusing.”
Karen recalled that in her early twenties she started hearing voices which “sounded like the devil saying negative things about God.” Prior to this, Karen struggled with hoarding in school. It got to the point where her parents would throw away the unmanageable piles of completed schoolwork when she wasn't home.
Karen said her family was supportive when she was depressed and really encouraged her to get on with life. They even drove her to work so she wouldn't lose her job.
Major turning points for Karen were when she was so distracted by her thoughts that she drove off the road, and her hoarding behavior was straining relationships with her roommates. Life is better today, but is still filled with ups and downs. She sees a counselor and does better when she takes her medication. Karen admitted to being inconsistent with her medication because of the side effects. And she still struggles a lot with paranoia at her job.
She wishes she could have told her younger self this, and Karen also wants people to know “that I am a capable person that can get through life.” Karen encourages you to get help if you have a mental illness because “You wouldn't want everything bottled up inside.”