How I’ve Learned to Live with My Mental Illness

A huge thank you goes out to Andolina of Lessons of A Student Mom for sharing so honestly about her struggles with mental illness and how she can use this struggle to help others.

We need to talk about mental health from Mo McRoberts on Vimeo.

How I’ve Learned to Live with My Mental Illness

by Andolina Ziolkowski

Mental illness affects everyone differently.

You and I could have the same diagnoses and still deal with different symptoms. Part of the stigma surrounding mental illness is that there is no biological testing involved in the diagnosis process. Some may not see it as an actual illness because it “doesn’t show” any physical symptoms. Although I would have to disagree. My symptoms can be very physical at times.

For instance, when I am having a day where my anxiety is flaring, my physical symptoms include nausea, shaking or trembling and a cringe in my neck. It can even trigger my migraines. As far as my depression goes, on a really bad day, I have an extreme fatigue and little to no appetite (and for someone who can only manage to eat once daily, this is a major factor). It can feel as though my limbs weigh hundreds of pounds each.

Why am I sharing all of this with you?

Because I am not afraid of my illness any longer.

Do I have a fear in the back of my mind that my mental illness could get worse? Yes, I do but I no longer let it destroy my life.

I know how to battle my symptoms and I know that I am doing everything I can to feel better. Medication cannot be the only treatment regimen, especially for someone who comes from a difficult childhood. Part of the process must involve some form of counseling or therapy.

There are people who have chosen helping others through their internal battles as their life’s passion.

I am one of those people.

It may sound crazy to some that someone who is “mentally ill,” although I wouldn’t classify myself as that, could possibly treat and be useful to others. We can be more useful to people battling the battles we face because we are in the forefront of the war.

We have the scars to prove that we know what it is like, and we are living proof that those battles can be won.

Personally, I wouldn’t want a counselor who doesn’t have the depth of understanding on mental illness as I have.

I have been to the bottom with no light in sight, I have wanted my life to end, and I have wished for days on end that something would happen to relieve me of all my pain. But today, as I sit here and write this, I am so grateful that I am still sitting here. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to spread knowledge and hope to others who are battling mental illness on a day to day basis.

You may be wondering how I have overcome such dark days. I haven’t, they are still a part of my life, but I know how to push through them better. Exercise has become a big part of my treatment.

Exercise has amazing benefits for your mental health, and it also allows your mind to rest as you focus on your body.

But on top of that, I take my medication as prescribed and report to my therapist when it isn’t doing its job. I also go to my regular counseling sessions, even if it seems that I’ve had a good week.

We shouldn’t be afraid of sharing our feelings, someone out there cares how we feel, I promise you that.

We all need to feel loved, and you may not realize it but there is at least one person who loves every one of us. Sometimes we just have to take the blinders off and look around.

The person who always says, “Are you okay?” What about that friend who checks up on you when they haven’t heard from you in a while? Even that person who always tries to get you to try new things, they want you to experience new things, to see new sights, because they love you.

What I ask of you, dear reader, because you took the time to read these thoughts of mine, is to share this story.

You never know if it may reach someone who needed to hear that there is light somewhere, they just have to give it a chance to find them. Help me erase the stigma so that we all can get the help that we deserve. Illness isn’t always visible, and sometimes our mental pain is far greater than any physical pain we could imagine.

Lessons From A Student Mom at
What is your story? Has mental illness touched your life? How about the life of those you love? Please talk to us in the comments below.

Author: Dr. Elise Cohen Ho
With over 25 years of experience, Elise Cohen Ho, PhD, HHP, NC, MH is an expert in natural health (mental, physical and emotional), support of the family unit and support of the individual. As a Natural Health & Lifestyle Therapist, Amazon International Bestselling Author and Motivational Speaker, she wants every person to understand that they bring incredible POWER to the world with their amazing and unique gifts. Elise is available as a freelance writer, public speaker and for private consultation. Please email to set up a FREE consultation today.


  • Bravo!

    Mental illness is something people still don’t like to talk about. It can be a range of mild to severe…whatever people seem to be still in the dark ages. Whenever I share that I am treated for depression, people look at me with a queer look on their faces. “Stop Donna…You are never depressed” is the reaction. But it is a real and I only show my happy side. I don’t get a chance to share those dark days because I spend them under my covers. It is a mild thing, but real.

    I have a few family and friends fighting bipolar disorder which is at a high spectrum. Even now…people tend not to talk about it. This post is amazing. A 26 year old mom sharing her experience takes guts. Bravo!

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  • Very moving. I was just discussing this morning with a friend about how we all deal with things in different ways. She is a Gemini and I am a Cancerian and we have such very different ways of coping with stuff. Part of that is upbringing, we decided, but other parts are really inside of you, part of your make up. Mental Health awareness is really important, it’s very good of you to share so much with us all.

    Enjoy the journey!

  • Hi Elise,
    What a great blog you have. Each time I am here, I see a great post that has to do with our physical health. This has to do with our mental health as well as physical. You must provide great support to people with these symptoms.

    • Janice, thank you very much. I share my passions and what i am drawn to and what I feel people who read my blog can benefit from. I LOVE when guest bloggers join in. There are so many important tips and stories to share.

  • Hello Elise! Quite the write up here my friend, it reminded me of a book The Power Of the Subconscious Mind By Joseph Murphy! I was given this book while helping a girlfriend of mine beat her cancer and let me tell you it really helped both of us to look at things from in a different light. Have you ever read this book?

    Well it was nice to meet Andolina here today and hear her story, God Bless! Chery :))
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  • Elise and Andolina, mental illness is still such a taboo topic! Multiple members of my family have had or continue to deal with depression and other mental health issues. I have friends who live with anxiety, panic attacks, and other illnesses. I have panic/anxiety attacks every so often. Stress is usually my biggest trigger. I am more aware of how I am feeling (emotionally and physically) and tend to notice when a panic attack or my anxiety has started to increase. Thank you, both of you, for helping bring this to where it belongs: In front of those who suffer and those who love or work with them. ~Adrienne
    Adrienne recently posted…Amateur Radio Operators are HamsMy Profile

  • Hi Elise and Andolina,

    Thanks for such a brave and honest article – and I’m so moved to think that Andolina is using her experiences to help others.

    My own “blues” are nothing in comparison to this, but when I was “down” it did help me to look at how I could be of service in the wider community.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark
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  • My recent Healing Recovery Summit features a mom whose daughter with bipolar disorder had committed suicide. I found that many people on my lists did not want to know about addictions, trauma, suicide or recovery. They seem to want to only focus on the positive things in life – love, romance, successful business, making money, health. For example, 1000 people opened a link about creating the family you love.

    However, people need to hear about the unpleasant aspects of life – disease, mental illness, etc., because sooner or later it affects most of us, if only with a distant relative, neighbor or colleague and maybe not your immediate family.

    Dr. Erica

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