“My depression feels like I’m stuck in quicksand trying to get out. My anxiety feels like I’m playing a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. Whenever I squash one obstacle, there is always another waiting for me.”
Marnie Perez Ochoa
Every person’s journey with anxiety and depression is unique. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but we strive to bring awareness to these mental health conditions and the people who suffer from them every day.
Today we are spotlighting Marnie Perez Ochoa’s mental health journey. When Marnie was 24, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Marnie had suffered from symptoms of depression and anxiety in college, but her mother’s cancer diagnosis a few years later made her symptoms unbearable. This was when she knew it was time to seek help. Here is her story.
Marnie Perez Ochoa
26 years old • Data Analyst • NYC • Brightside member since January 2020
I first experienced symptoms of depression in college. As much as I wanted them to, the symptoms never really “went away,” and I just learned how to manage it myself. I never really did anything to work on it because I thought going to the doctor or taking medication meant you were crazy.
A few years ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the symptoms became unmanageable. During the same time, I was also going through a break up with someone I thought I was going to be spending the rest of my life with. Those two events were so difficult for me, and experiencing them at the same time caused me to lose control of my thoughts and emotions. Those feelings created a sense of panic and uncertainty that I had never really experienced before. I later came to realize that this feeling was anxiety. I was getting panic attacks at work, and stressful situations became too overwhelming for me. My depression fed my anxiety and vice versa.
To some degree, I have always experienced symptoms of depression. However, they became unbearable when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. After that happened, I cried all the time and couldn’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel.
My mom is my best friend, and her diagnosis left me devastated. In my mind, cancer was synonymous with death, and nothing made me happy anymore. Then the break up happened and I felt like I had lost another one of my best friends. It was just too much for me to deal with at once, and I remember everything feeling so painful and sad. I remember writing in my journal that I didn’t understand anything and that there was no point in any of this.
Thankfully, my mom made a full recovery, and she is now cancer-free! Even with this good news, I struggled to find happiness within myself. I still struggled to find myself and feel “good enough” again.
I started traveling frequently, and it got to a point where I was never home. I ended up having an issue with some close friends on a trip overseas, which resulted in paying a fortune to fly home early. This experience exposed horrible feelings of self-doubt and loneliness, and I remember feeling so lost and alone.
After this experience, my mom became concerned about me. “My mom had always encouraged me to see a therapist, so I started looking online for teletherapy options because I was uncomfortable with the idea of talking face-to-face with a stranger about my most intimate thoughts. When I came across Brightside, I loved that I could do it from home and at my own pace.” I officially became a Brightside member in January 2020.
Throughout this process, I have learned that recovery is hard work. In therapy, the questions you get asked and ask of yourself are hard to face. You must have an open mind and be willing to grow. You must also accept that there are both things within your control and things that are out of your control. Focusing on those things that you can control is so crucial because those are the things you can change.
I’ve also learned that antidepressants can cause some side effects while your body gets used to taking medication. The beginning was difficult, but after that initial rough patch, taking medication has made me feel much better.
I now know that I had it all wrong before. For a long time, I didn’t seek help because I was worried that people would think I was crazy or that something was wrong with me. Now looking back, I was crazy for not getting help sooner!
Having an open dialogue about mental illness is super important because so many people think the way I used to think. That broken thought process is preventing them from seeking help and getting better.
I also hate that there is such a negative connotation around mental illness. There is really nothing to be ashamed about if you or a family member suffer from a mental illness. If people were more open-minded, we could end this stigma around mental illnesses. Ending the stigma means that people can get the help they need before it’s too late and their illness affects themselves and others.
If I had heard about more people like myself who were struggling with reality, then maybe I would have been more open and willing to seek help sooner. If I can help anyone by sharing my journey with anxiety and depression, then it’s worth it to me. It is important for people to know that they are not alone and that they can make it through anything.
Personal essay by Marnie Perez Ochoa
Thank you, Marnie, for sharing your journey with us. For more member stories, check out Christina’s story, Annie’s story, and Joe’s story. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, you are not alone. Talking about these illnesses is the first step towards destigmatizing the topic of mental health. Get connected with one of our doctors today to figure out if Brightside is right for you.