It does get better.

My name is Bailey and I am 25. I am from the Quad Cities area and was born and raised here. My mental health journey goes all the way back around age 14. I was young and felt very alone even though I had family and friends. Being depressed and having panic attacks wasn’t something people talked about back then. If you felt those things or talked about them people just assumed that you were “looking for attention.” I started drinking and partying to mask how I was feeling without realizing that was just going to make it worse. I was 15 when I tried to take my own life. I remember being so tired and feeling so worthless. 

It was hard to explain such big feelings at a young age. I remember going back to school and hearing rumors that I did it for attention. I remember teachers telling me to “suck it up”. I felt like no one cared about how I felt. I continued to use alcohol to mask how I was feeling. 

From 15-19, it is a blur for me and it’s embarrassing to admit that because now I realize I had a really bad problem with alcohol and I wish someone would’ve tried harder to stop me or help me. Not too long after I turned 19, I got pregnant with my son Ethan. 

Bailey and Ethan.

I tell people all the time if I had not gotten pregnant I would most likely not be alive right now; something in me switched. I got a stable job, I of course was no longer drinking and partying everyday, and I mended my relationship with the family and friends I pushed away. I had a really rough pregnancy to this day I still have PTSD from, but knowing I had my son to look forward to.. a person who would unconditionally love me FOREVER.. that’s what kept me going. 

The day I had my son was the best day in my entire life. I didn’t talk about it much, but I definitely struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety. I remember telling my OB at my 6 week check up how sad and nervous I was feeling and I just didn’t feel like myself. She told me “you have a beautiful baby boy. You’ll be okay.” Yet another person who had ignored me asking for help. I felt so guilty all the time and still sometimes to this day, that I couldn’t give Ethan a good dad and a “family.”

I picked up all my broken pieces and smiled for my son, because when you’re a mom that’s just what you do. Eventually I met someone who I once thought loved my son and I very much. It ended up being the start of a very dark time of my life filled with  lies, manipulation, greed, physical, mental, emotional abuse – these are not signs of love, and I wish I had realized this a long time ago. This was the first time I got into therapy and also seeing a psychiatrist. With the help of my therapist coaching me, I left a toxic relationship. I will forever be grateful I found the courage to leave before my son was old enough to realize how I was being treated. 

I finished school at this point, got my first career and went to therapy weekly. My diagnosis at this point was anxiety, depression, and ADHD. I was against medication, but I decided to try it. I tried for three months and each medication I was on made me feel insane, sick, and worse than before. My therapist, whom I loved so much, retired at this point. My psychologist at this time just kept upping my dose on meds that were not helping me. I stopped taking medication, I stopped therapy. I once again remained silent and bottled up how I felt, for the millionth time nobody was listening to me. I moved out on my own with Ethan. 

I worked two jobs and before I knew it, I was back to drinking again. Anytime Ethan was away I was out drinking and back to my old ways. I was really struggling to find myself at this point. I compared myself to my friends…I had no idea who I was as a person. Being single and raising a child alone felt really heavy for me. I was not happy with myself, I did not love myself, I let the wrong things and people define me. 

Not too long after this was the pandemic of Covid-19. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t leave home, I was left alone with my thoughts way too often. I got back into therapy and psych visits. After a couple of visits, my diagnosis of ADHD was changed to bipolar disorder type 2. I was started on antipsychotic medications, new depression medication, and new anxiety medication. I let this new diagnosis define me and consume me. I felt like no one was ever going to love someone like me who takes multiple medications a day and still can’t get out of bed. The meds did not help how I felt. I felt so far from myself than I ever had before. My therapist made me feel more insane every visit. My meds were increased with every psychiatrist appointment because clearly I was not any better. This sadly was another situation where nobody listened to me. 

I had tried to reach out for help so much over the years and no one truly took the time to listen or try to understand. I stopped the antipsychotic meds, I stopped going to my therapy and psychiatrist appointments again. I knew I needed help but what I was getting, whatever it was, was not help. I felt so much uncertainty at this time with my life and the pandemic on top of it. I was truly unhappy with every aspect of my life. I was unhappy at the job I was laid off from, I was unhappy with the people I surrounded myself with, I was unhappy with myself and how I was acting. 

This was not the life I wanted to live and my son deserves a happy mom no matter what it takes. One day I just got out of bed and I told myself I was not going to feel this way anymore. I was going to be better for myself and for my son. I applied for some new jobs and got hired for where I am working now doing insurance related work. I scheduled appointments with a new therapist and psychiatrist. After bottling things up for so long, it all starts to feel normal. I remember my first appointment with my therapist; she looked so sad and concerned. She kept telling me she was sorry and that I didn’t deserve what I went through. 

For the very first time in ten years, someone was listening to me. There was no diagnosis slapped onto me and there was no discussion of medications to immediately start. I was treated like a human. I was able to talk about my problems and start to heal from things I had bottled up since I was a young girl. My psychiatrist, who I must say is an absolute godsend, insisted we start from the very beginning. She was not convinced I had bipolar disorder. We started from scratch and reevaluated every feeling and every traumatic experience. This woman did not stop. I was seen twice a week until all of my testing was complete. I was officially for the first time diagnosed by tests and quizzes. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder combination type, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For the first time in my ten years of struggling, someone listened and fought for me to have real answers instead of just sliding me another medication. I cannot even describe how amazing this was and I still cry happy tears when I think about it. I am on the correct medications for everything. I can focus, I can do daily tasks without feeling overwhelmed, I can retain information and remember better, I can get out of bed! I don’t remember the last time I had a panic attack or a depressive day I couldn’t leave my bed. All the struggles I had with medication I never knew that they could actually help me be a better me but they have. 

It is crazy that it took me ten years to reach this point in my life. The stigma around mental health has got to end. No one should ever be made to feel like they have to bottle things up for as long as I did. I stopped letting my mental health, the fact that I was a single mom, my trauma, and my struggles define me. For the first time in my life I know who I am. I love who I am and I feel confident and beautiful in the skin I am.

I have decided I want to obtain my bachelors in social work and crisis counseling so I can be a rape and mental health advocate for local hospitals and social services organizations. I am the best mom right now than I ever have been. The friends and family I have in my life are people who truly care and love me. I feel so full of gratitude and appreciation for my life and all of the people and things in it. I never knew it was possible to feel this happy within yourself. I always thought I had to have a boyfriend, or perfect pictures on instagram, etc…I was so wrong. 

My mental health journey has been extremely rough. I would not be who I am today if I didn’t go through all of these different phases of my life. Through all the trials and tribulations and all the times I wanted to give up I am so glad I didn’t. That to me is exactly what hope is ー going through the unimaginable but still pushing through and holding on is hope. I will always have hope and I will never give up on myself again. 

Lastly, I just want to say if you have people in your life who refuse to listen, refuse to accept who you are or refuse to stick around when you’re going through a bad time and making bad choices, those aren’t your people. That’s not your tribe. Those people that are always there at the end of the day with no judgement and no forced relationship or conversation, those are the people you need to keep going. I would also like to say never give up on finding the right therapist and medications for you. It may not be for everyone, but there are people out there who do care and will listen! My mental health journey has been a long and painful one, and it is still not over. I am still learning how to heal from my trauma and how to accept certain things. I am a lot more aware of things now and how certain experiences have affected me and how to handle that in a healthy way. I want other people struggling to know that as cliche as it sounds and as much as you don’t believe it, it DOES get better. I am so glad I stuck around to find that out. We owe it to ourselves to heal and we owe it to our children.