Aimee’s Mental Health Journey (Guest Blogger Series)

We are so excited to introduce our first guest blogger: Aimee Elazegui 🎉 In this post, Aimee tells her mental health story, beginning with her experiences with schizophrenia in high school up until her current life as an incoming student at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. This post is a write-up of Aimee’s remarks as a panelist for a Movies for Mental Health event at De Anza College, which you can view here:

Learn more about Aimee in her biography at the end of this post, and find her online via Instagram (@IMEELAZEGUI) and her blog.
Hello, my name is Aimee and this is my third year here at De Anza and actually my second time speaking at this event.

Since my sophomore of high school, I’ve had schizophrenia. In my situation in particular, I have hallucinations every day or different voices that sound like they’re in the same room as me. They typically come in groups of people that I don’t know that talk about me or say things that have no relevance at all. They can see everything I hear, say, and do and have an opinion on everything.

I knew that I needed help when I had my first episode my sophomore year of high school. I was painting inside my house at 3 AM when the next thing I knew I was outside with a man shaking my shoulders, asking me why I had just tried to step in front of his car. I was barefoot, wearing only my pajamas in the middle of an intersection of my neighborhood.

I get these episodes where I’m in a trance and don’t seem to hear anyone except the voices. Episodes of unconsciousness persisted so frequently that it was and has been so hard to attend school or a job regularly.

Along with these episodes comes depression and anxiety. For the longest time, I was trying to figure out the solution to fix my schizophrenia but only until recently did I realize that everything I was trying were just temporary Band-Aids.

Because I was only doing short-term fixes, I was up and down in my depression and progress. I made a year without episodes but last year around January I was falling back down into a dark hole. I was so depressed again and then the episodes followed. I was hopeless and it felt like I have tried so many times to get back up and I didn’t have the energy to do it again.

I could feel everyone that was helping me grow tired too. I was depending on everyone so much and looking for answers frequently. I was telling my sister how tired I was and she told me “If you keep putting in the same equation, you’re going to get the same results”, it made me realize that I was using the same temporary bandaids this whole time. Relying on people, relying on medicine- using mainly only those methods and still feeling like I had tried everything. I finally realized that until I work on my depression will things change. It is only until I learn to love myself will things change.

I was tired of feeling like this and I knew I needed to do something about it. When I thought about how deep in depression I was and how hopeless it felt, it was really hard to tell myself that things were going to get better. It felt impossible. Talking to yourself “positively” is SO hard!! But then I realized that feeling those negative emotions that I was experiencing was SO hard to go through already. So I asked myself, “if it’s ALREADY hard right now, isn’t it worth it to try the option hat has the chance of feeling better?”

My therapist recommended that I go to an intensive therapy program so I did after being fed up with feeling so terribly. After searching for the right program, I went to El Camino Hospital and was admitted into the Dual Diagnosis group where I went every day for over 2 months. They taught me so many things- communication styles, thinking styles, daily routines, how to set goals, planning a structured schedule every week, going to therapy, sleeping an appropriate amount. Things that I have always heard of but never truly acknowledged how important they are.

Doing those simple things started getting me off my feet, so I started reading self-improvement books and dedicating time to be outside.

Being outside helped me to see how beautiful and big the world is. I started to soak in the fact that I am still alive today even though I have tried to take my life away and could’ve not been here. The universe wants me to be here, and for the first time in my life, so do I.

With all that I learned I knew it was time to go back into my regular lifestyle. I tried going back to school with different techniques and a different mindset.

Although I didn’t make it successfully through the whole quarter, I still know deep down that this is the hardest I’ve worked and most consistent I’ve ever been. Up until these past three weeks, I was originally majoring in nursing, as I always wanted to be in the medical field, because I wanted to help people that are like me.

I started reevaluating my career choice because my health was making the path I wanted to take unreachable. My sister asked me “Do you truly believe that people in the medical field are the only people who helped you in this journey?” I wrote this piece in response to that and will close with this.

I remember how intimidating it was to think about how little we are in this world of trillions of living things. The fact that we can be so insignificant here used to haunt me with feelings of worthlessness and despair. I longed to be needed and essential. Since I was little, I always thought, “I needed” to save the world, I’m “supposed to” do this for the world. But here I am today, 21 years old, now realizing how comforting it feels to be a little part of this universe. For the first time I have finally realized that I am here with a choice of just how much I want to make an impact on the world, however much or how little- with any amount being more than okay. To know that I can really do whatever my heart desires and not feel like the world is counting on me for so much lifts the weight off my shoulders. My life is for me. And living with that in mind will be what helps others. With that being said, my schizophrenia is both the greatest, most challenging thing that has ever happened to me.

Thank you.

 

ABOUT AIMEE: My name is Aimee Elazegui and I’m from the Bay Area, but I’m living in Los Angeles now because I am a new incoming student at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. I found out about Art with Impact through my psychology professor at a community college I was attending in the past. She suggested that I be a speaker on the panelist at the Movies for Mental Health at De Anza two times in two different years because she knew about my story. I’ve been trying to do more with Art with Impact ever since. I’m very passionate about mental health because I have bipolar schizophrenia and PTSD. After recognizing how much mental illness is stigmatized and how little it’s talked about in society, I discovered my passion for spreading awareness to help people like me. For the longest time I wanted to be a psychiatrist but after acknowledging what makes me happiest, I am pursuing fashion as my career. I plan to become a stylist for my young adult years, but my dream is to open a different type of mental hospital that revolves around self expression. I will always be proud to be an advocate for mental health and the beauty behind the room for growth.


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