Illustration by Tara Thomas/Art Director

IT ALL RUNS IN THE FAMILY

How having a nervous breakdown and being diagnosed with mental illnesses changes a family’s dynamic.

 By Jarrod Castillo, Athletics Editor

TW: discussion of mental illness, death

We all remember a date that, no matter how old we get, will always have a special place in our minds and hearts. Whether it’s good or bad, the date will always remain with us.

For me, that date is October 17, 2015.

As much as I hate to sound cliché, that was the day my life changed: I had a nervous breakdown in front of my family.

To preface, up to that point, I was a nursing/biology major in order to appease my parents. Even though I greatly disliked what I was doing and my mental health was deteriorating, I kept thinking to myself that this was for my parents and once I graduated and started making money, everything would get better.

Spoiler alert: things did not get better.

Instead, I felt like I was in a perpetual state of depression and anxiety, like being in a tunnel with no light at the end. Eventually the stress, depressive thoughts, and anxiety culminated into one giant snowball of despair that collided with me on October 17, 2015.

At first, I tried fighting and pushing the thoughts away. However, like a rubber band, the harder I pulled, the stronger the resistance and return of energy would be. Afraid that I was going crazy, I eventually broke down on the way home from my mom’s graduation ceremony in Phoenix, Arizona.

As I lay there sobbing in the fetal position, my dad, who deals with patients with mental illnesses, tried to assess my situation as he drove home. Suffice it to say, the next 16 hours were the longest of my life as my brain hung between life and death.

Eventually, when we got home, we made it a priority to find a psychologist who could figure out just what the hell was going on in my mind. Although I was having an atrocious experience, there was a ray of sunshine in my cloudy mind: my family got closer.

Prior to that incident, my family had been fairly distant, with fights breaking out almost daily. It didn’t help that I was being forced into a career that I hated.

(After months in therapy, I figured out that the fractured familial life contributed to my breakdown.)

But I digress.

Instead of fragmenting further, everyone came together to help me fight the battles that were going on in my mind. Eventually, I was diagnosed with depression, generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

According to BeyondOCD, OCD affects about 1 in 40 adults in the United States. Additionally, a study done by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that in 2015, 18.1 percent (42 million American adults) live with anxiety disorders.

Personally, I expected the depression and anxiety, but the OCD was what caught me off guard.

As I came to learn, the thoughts of despair and potentially hurting myself and others, even though I had no intention of doing so, was a symptom of OCD. These “intrusive thoughts” can also manifest themselves at other times, including when someone is in a relationship, also known as ROCD and obsessive love.

Without help, both can destroy your relationship because your mind becomes fixated on your partner. Additionally, you become obsessed with always wanting to talk to them and end up being overbearing because you aren’t able to let them live. You can see how this is a problem and it’s something that I’m working to rectify.

Anyways, once my family found out my diagnosis, they did everything in their power to help and comfort me during my time of struggle. My parents even took days off, without pay, to try and tend to my needs.

Three years later, the bond between my family is perhaps the strongest it’s been in a long time. My family came to my aid when I needed them the most and whenever my OCD, depression, and anxiety flares up, they’re there within a moment’s notice to help.

Not only that, but my family essentially cut down on the infighting and have taken different approaches to conflict such as openly communicating what’s troubling them instead of bottling it in and letting it fester.

Also, they’ve been more accommodating in that they try to understand that some days, I won’t feel 100 percent and that I’m just mentally exhausted and want to stay home and try to relax, instead of doing anything.

Though I deal with my OCD, depression, and anxiety on a daily basis, I will always remember October 17, 2015, as the day that my family showed me that I wasn’t alone in fighting my mental illness. I may have a triad of mental illnesses, but they will never define who I am.