We all heard the phrase “Recover is Real”, I honestly didn’t believe it until I learned about Julie Brown and her story. I connected with Julie through Tumblr, and I was immediately fascinated by her determination and strength to recover from her anxiety and depression. Julie experienced the crippling externalities that came along with living with a mental illness. Being a college student with dreams and goals, Julie decided that after her 21st birthday she no longer wanted to live as a prisoner to her mental illness, and here’s the what Julie had to say about her recovery journey:
SWH: What role did those closest to you have in your recovery?
Julie: My friends played the biggest role in my recovery. Had it not been for my best friend Michaela coming over at midnight when I was in the middle of a mental breakdown, I’m not sure I would be here today. I am lucky that my parents also supported my choice to start my path down recovery, although my friends still gave me the greatest push. My friends and parents supported my decision to start group therapy, and I always called my mom and told my friends how it went after each session. Now, they are all proud of how far I’ve come!
SWH: What was one thing that kept you on the road to recovery?
Julie: I think it was my determination to get better. My grades started to suffer, I wasn’t as fun to be around, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was miserable and made others not want to be around me. I had this image in my head of this woman that I wanted to become; she was strong, did not care what anyone else thought of her, followed what she loved, and was so happy that everyone wanted by her because of her energy. I knew I had to get better in order to become her.
SWH: What was the most important thing you learned about yourself through this recovery?
Julie: It had to be my own strength. I’m not even sure how I got out of bed some days, but I did it. And now when I have one of those really hard weeks where it feels like I’m coming apart at the seams, I remember that this feeling won’t last forever. Life is damn hard sometimes, but it’s your own choice to either settle for that, or to do something about it. And also that you never have to go through it alone! Having a strong support system is so incredibly important. I cherish my best friends so much more now and make sure everyone I love knows that I love them and appreciate them.
SWH: How did you get the strength to push yourself toward recovery when it got tough?
Julie: Again, a lot of the push came from my friends, and having my group in group therapy helped A LOT as well. I literally had two hours once a week of nothing but encouragement to better myself. Music helped me a lot as well. When I was really going through a particularly rough patch, I’d just put in my headphones and let everything else fade away. I wrote in my journal a lot and vented on tumblr. I did not let things set in for too long and learned to let it all go.
SWH: How did the medication, therapy, etc. help you in your recovery? What were the pros and cons?
Julie:Even though I only stayed on antidepressants and antianxiety medication for 5 months, I think that really helped me transition further into recovery. Had I not started on antidepressants to begin with, I might have attempted suicide. They made my suicidal thoughts go away, and they helped me get to a place where I felt I could go back to helping myself. The only downside to the medication was getting sleepy and I would throw up often when I drank. I also had some bad side effects to two of the different kinds I tried.
Prozac made me VERY dizzy when they upped my dose, and Wellbutrin made my appetite disappear. All of the antidepressants I went on also made my sex drive disappear. Group therapy was probably the best decision I made in my recovery. I had an initial appointment with a counselor, and we talked about what my issues were and what path I wanted to take. I chose group because I wanted to be able to help others along too, and I wanted that relationship with others as well. Had it not been for my group, I would not have gone to see the psychiatrist I saw that started me on medication. There were no cons to group really, other than not being able to talk to the other group members outside of those 2 hours once a week.
SWH: What advice would you give someone who was going through the same obstacles you faced?
Julie: Firstly, eliminate all negativity in your life. If there is someone who is bringing you down and not adding positivity to your life, get rid of them. They will only make your journey harder. Secondly, reach out to those people that you do trust in your life. Confide in them and let them know what you’re going through. Let them help you! If they care about you, they will want you to get better as well. Get help. Go see a counselor, psychiatrist, therapist—whatever is available to you. If you’re in college, you have a ton of resources available, use them! And if you’re not, research different centers that you could go to for help. You can even start with your general doctor; they can refer you to someone to help you.
You really need to let others in. In order to get help, you need to accept help and you need to accept that you want to change. These are real illnesses and disorders, and sometimes medication is needed in order to help you get better. Like I said, I needed medication for those first 5 months before being able to do it on my own. Starting medication does not mean you’re weak! If anything it makes you stronger because you are doing whatever possible to get better. And above all, remember that life goes on and that you can do it. Write yourself a reminder on your mirror that you’ll see every day. You are worth it one hundred percent.
SWH: What does recovery mean to you?
Julie: Recovery means getting my life back. It means everything. I took my recovery seriously and I became that woman I first talked about. I love myself and I am truly happy within myself and with my life. I still have my rough days and weeks, but I always come out of them stronger now. Recovery saved me.
Julia Cardoso is the Mental Health Staff Writer with a focus
on Anxiety Disorders. She is a graduate of Emmanuel College with a BA in Sociology and is on her second year MSW program at Simmons College. Julia is passionate about Mental Health and eliminating the stigma.