Looking back, I’ve realised that even as a child I felt really different, unworthy and that I didn't deserve things. I was convinced that I was unlovable and I constantly tried to get approval from my family and others, and I just felt like I didn't belong anywhere. It was really hard because not having the words to articulate things as a child is probably the most difficult thing.
My first experience with depression was at 8 years old, which I can remember. At 18 I was formally diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety disorder and mild OCD. Only my immediate family knew and if anyone asked I denied it, I just hid it from everyone. So essentially it was like hiding a part of myself all these years.
Over the years I managed my symptoms by keeping busy, taking medication and avoiding any conversations about my mental health. I tried many different types of treatment, several different psychologists and medications.
I attempted to take my life in 2013. I think it was the result of many years in denial about what was actually happening internally and ignoring the emotional pain that I was in. It was a last ditch effort because I felt like didn't have any other options and I really thought suicide was my only way out.
Fortunately, I survived the attempt and ended up in an inpatient facility for 3 months. It was the most gut wrenching, heartbreaking, peaceful and amazing experience. It was during these moments that I realised not being true to myself was killing me and is a massive trigger for my depression and anxiety.
It was profound and it was hard because it was the parts of myself that I didn't want to go near. I didn't want to get in touch with those raw emotions because it was going to be painful but I realise that I had to just feel it, sit with what was with going on. It was the first time that I allowed myself to be truly me and accept what was going on. I learned that acceptance doesn't mean giving up, and it doesn’t mean that I am defined by my illness. With the aid of the right treatment and support network, I began to recover.
I think Lifeline can offer that support when we’re not ready to speak to our family or friends. They will be there for you without needing to know who you are and there's no judgement there. You don’t have to suffer alone.
Stefani Caminiti is an avid mental health advocate and speaker with a mission to help support people in achieving mental wellness, through her Inner Ninja Foundation. By sharing her lived experience of severe depression and anxiety she encourages others to seek help to learn to manage their illness.