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Filed Under: Personal
Michelle’s Mental Health Journey: An Interview

Michelle’s Mental Health Journey: An Interview

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this post in relation to how I feel. It does not mean everyone with mental illness feels this way. I am just trying to share my experience and others I’ve known. I wrote this as a way of expressing myself, my illness, and my own mental health journey. Just because some of us have felt this way does not mean everyone feels this way. Each of us experiences things differently so don’t feel left out if you don’t 100% connect to this post! Everyone’s mental health is unique to each person.

For Mental Health Awareness Month, we each decided to do an interview and answer a set of questions. We wanted you to get to know us on a deeper level and learn more about our mental health journey.

 

Who are you?

I’m Michelle Lunger. I’m 23 and from Bridgewater, New Jersey. I am one of the writer’s of Grey Bandit’s blog Ride The Wave. I also co-run the Instagram account with the CEO of Grey Bandit, Courtney Glasser. I am their project manager and mental health lead. It has almost been a year since I started working with Grey Bandit and I am so happy to be a part of their amazing team!

 

Do you have a diagnosis? If so, what?

I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD also known as clinical depression) when I was 19. I am now 23 years old and have learned that I am not that diagnosis, I am much more. 

 

What does mental health mean to you? 

Mental Health is so important to me. I never really realized its importance until my journey began. It really is the foundation of your day. If your mental health is not in check it can affect the rest of what you do. Your head won’t be in it and it would be hard to be fully present. My mental health is my first and hardest job, but it is the most important one. 

 

When did your journey begin? 

The summer after my freshman year of college I had severe panic attacks due to my anxiety, my whole body would go numb. It would start from my temples and it would start to feel warm and tingle. Then it would get hard to breathe, that’s when I would start freaking out. As my anxiety heightened so did the numbness. It would spread down my whole upper body. I felt like my organs were shutting down, I could barely move my hands or fingers, and I thought I was going to die. I realized I couldn’t live my life in fear of this happening all the time. So, I asked for help. Thankfully, talk therapy, CBT, and medication saved me and it’s been almost 3 years since I have had a severe panic attack. 

 

What is the hardest part about having a mental illness/ mental health?

I think the hardest part about having a mental illness is when your mind distorts your thoughts and tells you lies. Those lies scream so loud in my head that I start to believe them even though to my core I know they aren’t true. It makes you feel like your emotions are heightened and you feel not only your weight, but the weight of the world. That gets really heavy, but just know that you don’t need to carry everyone’s weight. It’s not yours to carry, only your own and you too can use help. 

 

When did you become a mental health ally? 

I knew I wanted to be a mental health advocate when I was going through my own journey and I found out about Grey Bandit. I was inspired that you can combine both fashion and mental health awareness. I reached out to the CEO, Courtney Glasser. We actually were in the same sorority in college. Hearing about her journey inspired me and helped me know I wasn’t alone. I decided that I wanted to be a part of the community, to share my own story in hopes to inspire others like she did. 

 

What are some stigmas you have faced?

I’ve heard to just think positive, that medication is the cure, that mental health isn’t real, and that I’m just lazy. It sucks that I have to constantly prove that those are not true. Positive thoughts don’t solve everything, neither does medication. Mental health is just as real and physical health and depression does not make you lazy. But, the real stigma which I am even guilty of thinking this to be true is that psychiatric units are for “the crazy.” Being exposed to this idea through TV shows and movies definitely steered this thought. I was admitted into a unit, so was my brother, and my dad. We are not crazy. We were going through something, we were suffering through trauma, and we were hurting. This can happen to anyone, not just “crazy people.” I want people to know that because I didn’t know till I experienced it. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell myself that I know you feel like you can’t handle it, that you won’t get through it. But, you will because you can get through the other side of your fear. It won’t be as bad as you think and it will feel so much better knowing that you tried. That heavy weight can be lifted and your pain won’t last forever. The only way is through, not around and that will set you free and make you feel that way too. 

 

What are you grateful for? 

I am grateful for my friends, my family, my opportunities, Grey Bandit and Ride The Wave. I am also grateful for having another day. Taking a moment to think about gratitude really changes your perspective. I am even grateful for the little things that we look past. Remember to have gratitude for the air you breathe, the water that hydrates you, the food that nourishes your body, and the roof that goes over your head. Not everyone has those luxuries and it is always nice to reassure that there are some things that are constant and keep you living. 

 

Thank you for taking the time to get to know me and my story. I look forward to continuing my journey with you all! Let's ride the wave. 

-Michelle.