A Personal Story

By Stephanie Roth

Hi, my name is Stephanie and I am 38 years old. I live in Novi, Michigan with my husband of almost seven years, Rob. He, along with some other family and friends, is extremely supportive. Rob and I have a photo booth business. We love seeing people smile, laugh, and then have photos to take with them to have lasting memories of the event they are at. I enjoy traveling. I love going to amusement parks and going on roller coasters. I enjoy taking long walks, listening to music, playing sports, and scrapbooking. My favorite thing is contributing to others. I love randomly surprising people by mailing them a card, making them a craft, writing someone a poem or buying them something. It just means so much to me to put a smile on another person’s face. I absolutely love writing. It’s the easiest way for me to express myself. I am currently working on writing a self-help book. I made a website where I have a blog. My website is full of resources, along with things I feel might be motivating to others. My blog is about my experiences and how I worked through them. I do this in the hope of helping others to get through things. I am so passionate about helping others and paying it forward.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at the young age of 7 when I saw a play therapist for the first time. I grew up in an environment where I was very anxious and needed to tiptoe around for much of the time. I have a learning disability and was in special education classes. It made me feel different and isolated from others. I was embarrassed because I was taught grade levels below my own, and therefore, I felt like I didn’t know as much as others. I wasn’t officially diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Tourettes, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) until I was 17 years old, when I was hospitalized for the first time. Some of my symptoms of OCD and Tourettes were eye blinking, tensing parts of my body, clearing my throat, coughing, checking, and counting. Some of my BPD symptoms consist of having a constant fear of abandonment, probably because of the emptiness I often felt. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying that I did or said something wrong. I have dealt with an eating disorder and impulsive behaviors. I have self-harmed and contemplated suicide many times, with some attempts. The attempts were never because I wanted to die, I just didn’t want to feel the intense pain that I felt.

On one hand, I was pretty relieved that there was a reason I was doing the behaviors I was and that I wasn’t alone. It was an awful feeling for me to feel like I was the only one and that there was no explanation for my behaviors. On the other hand, the stigma of mental health conditions is frustrating to me.

I consider myself pretty spiritual. My Mom passed away from Leukemia 12 years ago. We used to say that we were a team and could get through anything together. I believe that I will see her again one day if I can live my life all the way through. 

I need to trust others when they point out behaviors that usually mean I am struggling and that things might be escalating. Often my loved ones notice before I do, and sometimes once I notice, I’m in a state where it is difficult to get out of what I’m feeling. I’ve learned that I must trust others. My extremely close friend April, who is like a sister to me, made me the aunt of her two children and I love them with all of my heart. The thought of how much it might affect them if I took my life, along with others, has definitely been a huge motivator in working to get well. I don’t want to negatively affect anyone.

Acceptance played a big role in my being able to get the right help because I needed to realize that what I was doing was causing me more harm than good, so I needed to try something different. After trying out different types of therapies, I eventually found a type that works well for me. I have been involved with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) which has taught me skills to help regulate my emotions, communicate well with others, mindfulness, and things to do to get through distressing moments in an effective way. I am also currently involved with Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) to help work through the trauma I experienced. I am so grateful to presently have an excellent treatment team who are so kind, patient, and extremely helpful. I feel that it is super important to be comfortable with your treatment team.

At the age of 17, the hospital also started me on my first psychotropic medication. After trial and error with different medications and dosages, I found what works well for me. I can’t say that every day is easy for me. In fact, some days are just the opposite, however, with therapy, medication, leaning on my supports, and having structure, it makes for more good days than not. I used to think that if I took a “magic pill” or something as simple as that, I would suddenly be in recovery. The truth is, recovery is a process. I’ve learned that every moment is a chance to do the next best thing for myself. I can’t change what happened a day, minute, or even a moment ago, though I can do the most effective thing for myself now.

It’s been a battle, though I am a much happier and healthier person. I have a degree in social work. I went through an extensive training and was able to get my certification to work as a peer support specialist where I am able to use my personal experiences to help others, as I do volunteering with NAMI. I’ve always had a passion for helping others.

Many years back, I broke my wrist. I received cards and phone calls daily. When my depression is at its worst, and many people know it, some choose to back away instead. I’m guessing it’s more to do with people not knowing what to do or say, as opposed to them not caring. I’m sure anyone with a mental health condition would agree that having one is tortuous! I have found that the pain from my mental health condition is much worse to me than breaking my wrist. It saddens me how much stigma towards mental health conditions there is, and I’d like to be a part of helping to break that stigma.

I believe that just as someone with diabetes might need to take a pill or get medical attention, the same goes for someone with a mental health condition. A person with a mental health condition is not their diagnosis or a label, but a person just like anyone else. I am so grateful that I am able to get help to change my thoughts and behaviors, so I can use my experience to help others.

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