I recently discovered this show called “Chuck” and get obsessed with it, is a very fun way to spend the days with this horrible hot weather and disconnect from everything, to have a good laugh. As I liked the vibe that the main actor has, Zachary Levi, and as I usually do with all the actors I admire I started looking for more shows or movies.
In my search, I got to a podcast called Inside of You hosted by Michael Rosenbaum and though I’m not a podcast person, I listened to the interview for curiosity and finished it feeling seen about my mental health.
In the interview they talk about the process of healing, the mental illnesses they both have, and how they manage them—their mental health journey—and it inspired me so much I wanted to talk about mine, so I can help others the way they do and defend the importance of mental health.
But to talk about my journey I have to go way back to when I was born.
I was born with a congenital heart disease called tricuspid atresia, which means that my left ventricle was blocked, and needed something to be open and let the blood flow normally through the heart: this thing is called Fontan.
I got my first surgery when I was six and I’m not gonna lie, I barely remember anything, I started having more consciousness when I was about eight and I was in primary school.
I think you know how this works, right? Imagine being new in a school with a disease that nobody understands (not even you), with a big scar across your chest; the kids had it very easy.
I didn’t like to be there, I was waking up every morning telling my mom I was feeling sick or saying I didn’t sleep well so I could skip class; I didn’t have friends and the ones I had weren’t good influences.
Most of my physical insecurities, including weight, started there. I remember being unwell most of the time, I even made a pact with myself about changing my personality every week to see which one would fit and like the most: let me spoil it for you, none of them did.
When I graduated with twelve I made my first mental health journey—I spent all the summer trying to heal looking forward to high school.
Of course, I didn’t know how to start, so I took the “help” that my inspiration back then gave me: a table in a teen magazine of Demi Lovato’s advices on how to love yourself.
I remember there was this advice that said “look yourself in the mirror and repeat how worthy and loved by you and others you are until you believe it”; I tried and kinda worked, but of course, it wasn’t therapy, so it was more of convincing myself than believing it. That’s why I needed more ways to communicate with myself and the world: this was the summer I started writing.
At first, this was my therapy, it was like a real psychologist to me. I’d written before—short stories mostly, nothing good or as important as my mental stability—, but never published it anywhere. To me was scary to talk about all these bad feelings and uploading them to a blog, basically because I didn’t think my writing was good; surprisingly, a lot of people liked it and felt represented, which showed me my real-life purpose: to help others.
I like to think I started high school with more positive thoughts than before, I was new there too, we were very few people in the class and it seemed easy to make friends. Spoiler again: it wasn’t.
This time the problem wasn’t my heart or my weight, the problem was me because I wasn’t able to connect with anyone; I had a group of friends, yes, but I always felt left out.
Back at that time, this school was “prestigious”, so everyone was very intelligent or very persistent with their studies, their interests were extreme: acting like a 40-year-old adult or like an oppressed teen who just wants to have fun.
While I was studying there I never felt smart, everyone was nailing their exams and I was an average student.
I wasn’t good at science or math and everyone wanted to work in something related to that, and all I wanted to do was to work in something I like, something creative; they didn’t understand that, so I started feeling more stupid and misunderstood and more insecure about my intelligence.
What I was writing wasn’t good enough or worthy because I wasn’t intelligent enough to do that; I never believed I had a gift, maybe it was luck or something I provoked.
I tried to talk to God about why I was like this, it was a catholic school, so I got used to praying every day. Maybe my problem, why I never felt like I was in the correct place, was because I wasn’t believing in anything.
I prayed a lot and never got an answer, and I stopped doing it when a sister came to me and said I was “so brave and strong for being here, wanting to help others”, that “God gave me this, made me like this because he knew I could handle it because I was special and he had a special plan for me”. I thought that was sweet coming from her but I didn’t buy it.
What kind of God makes you hate yourself, why he doesn’t let me connect with anybody? How he could be so bad giving me this heart? I tried another religion, like Buddhism, even meditation but nothing worked.
This was the only spiritual journey I ever had, nothing answered me, so I relied on the universe, on the things I see and know.
By the age of fifteen, I had my second mental health journey, my first anxiety attack during a medical appointment where I couldn’t take the news pretty well.
My doctor recommended going to a psychologist and even though for some people that worked, it didn’t work for me; the only thing I got from those sessions were stopping writing about bullying in primary school because that was hurting me and I couldn’t see it.
The third mental health journey I made was during quarantine, surprisingly enough. I wrote my second book during the pandemic and felt very connected to my work, nature, and the world. But not everything was good, I also stopped being a volunteer and talking in medical talks.
I started to feel like a fraud, I was talking with all these people about loving yourself with a heart disease, I was talking about how important was to care about your mental health and I realized that I never did that; I never liked myself completely, I still have insecurities and I don’t know how to deal with anxiety or the urge to run away to another place.
That is something they talked about in the podcast: you ask someone with anxiety or depression how to get better and they don’t know, I don’t know, I need someone who can give me a path or an answer.
I recently lived the worst three months of my life due to anxiety. Maybe it was a host of things, of medical appointments, of graduating from the university, of COVID-19 because I’m considered a person of risk and I’m not vaccinated yet, maybe I lost control completely.
I suffered a panic attack on a bus, I couldn’t move properly because I was shaking and I needed to go back home. From here, the anxiety started to kick stronger than ever.
I even talk to my doctor about medication, and this is something they also explained in the podcast and that I want to highlight: not all medications work for you.
I started taking one that didn’t give any addiction or any harm to the heart and I felt so bad, so sleepy and dizzy, and very sad all the time. This is, how Zachary said in the interview, chemicals in your brain, and is okay if something doesn’t work, the important thing is to find something that does it.
They also talked about feeling useless for taking medication, because you don’t want to be always like this. Not in my case at least.
I take two pills a day for my heart condition and when the anxiety was kicking on so bad I decided not to take any medication, I thought I could handle it myself, but for the moment I don’t have any superpowers that could help with that.
Is good to take the help you need. If you need medication, take it; if you need to talk to someone, do it. I remember being so mad at a family member for telling me I needed to go to therapy and that’s because we don’t understand how our mind works and how mental health affects us.
Try to find people that feel like you, I recently found a study that talks about how people with my heart problem have the anxiety levels higher because we’re always worried about our condition; you’re not here to be stronger, braver, and unbreakable, the emotional and mental stability is as important as the physical one. You’re not alone.
Right now I went through a little journey again, maybe the fourth one, I don’t know it yet. I closed my social media for a week, I tried to keep my mind busy with the things I like. I realized that I’m always doing something with my life.
This is something they also mentioned in the interview, how they keep busy all the time, how they even buy compulsively because they generate serotonin; I do that too, but instead of buying, I study.
I write, I make graphic design, I read, I took three English tests to know my level, I took two courses of copywriting, one of Cosmology that I don’t even understand and another one of Programming; I enroll in courses that I don’t need because I don’t want my mind to stop. To me, this is a way of showing the world that I’m enough, that I’m smart and worthy, but I should know that without doing all this.
It’s been so long since I talked about my story, I forgot what my purpose was, I needed to so I could come back and believe in what I say.
What I wanted to express talking about my journeys is that it doesn’t matter how many journeys you make because that means that you’re looking for being a better version of yourself.
Is true, this is not easy, and as they say in the podcast, this is a neverending battle and healing process, but that’s not negative. It reminds you how human you are and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Accepting that you overthink, that sometimes you can’t handle stuff, that you suffer from anxiety and face it is a way of healing and loving yourself more.
Is something I try to do all the time. When I turned eighteen I became more conscious about my disease till the point of questioning again why me, why this is permanent and is never gonna change, because this is forever for more that I don’t want to.
Facing that is a way of focusing on the things that are important and not pay attention to the things that I can’t control.
And probably I’m gonna live more journeys, I’m not writing this as full recovery, I need to connect my body and mind again and anxiety doesn’t make it easy but is good to remember that is not real, the only real thing is you.
I feel like I changed a lot through yeas and that’s something I’m really proud, I’m not in the same place I was when I was younger; I’m in a better one.
This is your story and is okay if is not perfect, don’t let anyone tell you what you feel or say is not important because it is for you and there’s nothing more worthy than that. Start giving you credit for all the things you went through, is impressive.
If you’re interested in the podcast, you can listen to it here: