I have lived with mental illness for most of my life. From the age of 13 years old I have struggled in a plethora of ways. I was an out of control teenager – not just rebellious – I was all over the place! My moods were extreme and my behavior was just as wild! I remember always feeling like I was searching for something and I know now that I was searching for peace within my scattered brain. Back in those days, mental illness wasn’t really talked about. I was just labeled a bad child. I will admit – I was extremely troubled. I can remember, between the ages of 13 to 18, having periods of extreme depression and feeling suicidal and then switching dramatically and being so hyperactive, elated, on top of the world, super creative and having an inflated sense of self. I know my parents did the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time and I don’t blame them. My parents have always been there for me and I put them through absolute hell!

Tanya – 15 years old

Being young and feeling so out of control was a recipe for disaster! Starting at the age of 13 I self-medicated with alcohol. When I was drinking I didn’t have to think about how out of control I felt. Partying became my vice. I don’t have to tell you how self-destructive that was. I lost my virginity at the oh so young age of 13. I was hanging out with 18 year old men. I remember running away from home several times and hiding out at friends houses. This was before social media and location apps – my parents had the police looking for me. I feel like I was always searching for something to bring me happiness because I couldn’t find it within myself.

At the age of 15 I had my first real boyfriend. We were sexually active really quickly and we had a tumultuous relationship, mostly due to my ever changing moods! I had a few good friends at the time and we would all hang out and party. At one of those parties, at my house, my boyfriend wasn’t there that night and I met a guy that I was smitten with. I ended up breaking up with my boyfriend and started dating the new guy. Our relationship was fire – we had amazing chemistry and could talk for hours about anything. We became sexually active pretty quickly and within a few months I was pregnant at the age of 16. My parents gave me one option and that was abortion. If I was to remain in their home then I had to terminate the pregnancy. I was young, mentally a mess and had no means to live on my own. Abortion it was. Going through something like that at the age of 16 is horrifying. I was already a mess and this put me over the edge. My boyfriend was very supportive and a great friend to me during all of this. I was extremely depressed for a long time after and felt even more lost.

Tanya – 16 years old

By the grace of God I made it through that devastating time and my boyfriend and I stayed together for 6 more years. We moved in together after graduation and tried to make it work. I was infatuated with him and was very jealous and insecure in our relationship. My mental health was always a struggle in our relationship – I know I was a lot to handle! My ups and downs were extreme and ultimately I never felt really loved. My boyfriends family didn’t care for me which killed me inside and I know that took a toll on him as well. I couldn’t even love myself so how could anyone else love me? We broke up a few months prior to my 22nd birthday and I moved back in with my parents. I was literally broken. I cried for weeks and quit eating. I lost so much weight – I was bordering on anorexic. My whole world and existence was shattered!

Tanya – 18 years old

Looking back on that time in my life is always hard to do. I was a broken soul always searching for peace within myself. My teenage years into my early 20’s were nothing short of chaotic. I used alcohol to drown out the pain I had inside. I used my boyfriends to try to make myself feel loved and worthy. I never really felt like my life had a purpose or that I mattered. I had a major brain illness and I had no idea and wouldn’t for a while! Such a sad place to be and it continued to spiral down from there! My 20’s said, ”Hold my beer”…

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11