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The following story features Meghan, a 27-year-old nanny in Massachusetts and participant in our Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life mental health public awareness campaign. Learn more at DeconstructingStigma.org.
A trip to the local market could send Meg into a severe state of panic.
“Just going to the grocery store and paying for things—that interaction, the eye contact with the clerk, would give me major anxiety,” she says.
Meg’s struggle to control her own emotions began in middle school. The onset of a panic attack—a surge of intense fear accompanied by a pounding heart, sweating, and shortness of breath that can last for minutes—forced administrators to call 911. Meg spent the majority of her days hiding in the nurse’s office to prevent interaction with others—anything that could set off another attack. The panic attacks and depression followed her into her adult life, where she tried multiple times to kill herself.
“There are many days I wake up and say, ‘How am I going to make it through this day?’ Nothing is more terrifying than battling your own mind constantly,” she says.
It wasn’t until after college that Meg was formally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and began dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a specialized therapy that helps patients identify and regulate triggers of their anxiety. She also learned breathing techniques, meditation, and mindfulness, all of which keep her focused on the present.
“I’m lucky to nanny for four beautiful children who, without even knowing it, keep me going, even on my hardest days.”
Meg still struggles. Recently, she considered ending it all again, this time going so far as to pen a suicide note to her parents. Images of her family and the little girls she nannies for flashed in her mind.
“Instead of going through with it,” she said, “I went to my parents and made a new plan. I decided to fight for myself. My life is worth fighting for. I’m capable of being happy.”
Meg wants others out there with a similar diagnosis to know they’re not alone.
“Having a mental illness is so consuming and exhausting that we should all be proud we are able to live with it. We’re a lot stronger than we think.”