It’s my three years coming up. Everyone in my family thought I couldn’t stick it out, so it’s surprising to them, and to me, that I’ve stuck with it this long. It’s really hard to work in retail, but I’m proud of my job. I’ve been working as a cashier at Walmart since I was sixteen.
I have really bad social anxiety, so being a cashier can be difficult, but I’ve learned so much from this job. It has given me access to an open book on what people are like, what goes on in the world. It’s helped me learn to connect with people and to deal with people who aren’t always so nice.
Yeah, I still cry and get upset sometimes —I’m a very emotional person, there’s nothing wrong with crying— but now I can pick myself up and brush myself off after. I couldn’t do that before.
My journey with mental health started very young.
When I was nine, I started getting these feelings. Sadness. Loneliness. Feeling unwanted. Everything started hitting at the same time, but when you’re nine years old people expect you to be happy and excited, not depressed. Those feelings were there, but I didn’t acknowledge them until it got really bad.
And it got really bad.
I’m glad there’s more talk of mental health and mental illness, that it’s a more common and accepted topic today. The more we talk about it the more knowledge we have. My hope is that this will help more people be able to recognise the signs at an earlier stage.
When we don’t recognise the signs, before you know it, you’re in a psych ward. You’re being admitted to the hospital. You’re watching your mom cry. I’ve never seen my mom cry like she did that day. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through.
I was eleven.
Being eleven, not having the tools to properly understand what I was feeling, you turn to other methods of coping. I did self-harm. I self-harmed quite a bit up until high school. I tried to kill myself.
There’s this quote from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I aspire towards it, because yeah, I was going through hell, and if I wanted to get out of it, I had to keep going. No matter the circumstances.
I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, OCD, and depression. I was put on medication when I was eleven and I’ve been on it ever since. I’m 19 now. That medication, it’s kept me in a stable position, a much more manageable position.
I still have my bad days. Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, though I wish it did. I’d love an instruction manual to help me get through the bad days, but you figure out your own strategies.
I take it one step at a time. I focus on what I’m doing right now. Listening to music helps a lot. Going for long walks too. Talking to people I trust. You have to find what works for you.
Being diagnosed has been really helpful. I like to think of my mental illness as a second person; it’s not me, it’s just another person, sitting on my shoulder, telling me I can’t do it.
But I can, and I have.
I have such a strong support system. My mom is my rock. She’s been by my side since the beginning. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to say “hey, I’m ok, I still have rough days, but I’m glad I’m alive.”
My grandparents too. I never thought they would be accepting of what I’ve been through because they’re part of an older generation, but they have been, and I’m so grateful for that. My grandparents, my parents, I can’t describe in words how thankful I am for all of them.
I’ve had other relatives tell me that what I went through wasn’t real. That hurt. Words have a way of sticking in all the wrong places sometimes.
Some people don’t want to put in the effort to try and understand. But people like my grandparents, they’re more willing to be part of the discussion, and part of the solution.
There are still days when its really hard for me to get out of bed. There are days when I can’t look at myself in the mirror, where I sit and contemplate why me? Why am I here?
At the end of the day, you just gotta think to yourself “you’re here for a reason, you have the opportunity to make the world a better place, even if it’s just for one person.”
I wanted to share my story because I want people to know that it’s ok to not be ok.
If you’re not feeling safe, if you’re not feeling like you want to be here anymore, you need to speak up and get help, find someone you can trust, cause that can save your life. Don’t try and ball it up in your head until you do something you’ll regret.
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
--Mollie O’Halloran, Program of Office Administration Executive
(Interviewed and Written by Eugénie Szwalek; photo by Nolan Brinson)