Young woman with glasses smiles between tree leaves.

Overcoming Mental Illness

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Overcoming Mental Illness

By Lexi Bays

Mackenzie Joachimi is a Sophomore at Oakland University majoring in Communication. She is originally from Chicago, Illinois, and she grew up in Commerce, Michigan. She first struggled with mental health at 10 years old and has since come a long way. She’s a part-time nanny, loves yoga, and says her greatest achievement is making it to college.

What was your life like growing up? 

When I was 6 years old, my parents got divorced. My sister and I grew up splitting time with each parent until I was 13 years old, when we started to live with my mom full time. Overall, my home life was pretty normal and I was a happy child up until I reached 10 years old, where I began to struggle.

Young woman with glasses smiles between tree leaves.
Mackenzie Joachimi poses in Kensington Park, Michigan, on August 15, 2019. Photo credit: Alexa Arceri.

At 10 years old I was first diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder. My OCD revolved around even numbers, cleaning, and repetition when I was that age.

Flash forward to when I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder after my first suicide attempt. When high school came around, I was suffering from daily panic attacks at school. I would have to leave class and go into the designated office sick room, where they always kept it open for me. Overall, growing up mentally ill is extremely hard. I think that I never really got to have a normal childhood.

However, with the support of family and friends, I got out of that rough patch in life. I have never been happier than I am today.

What challenges have you had to overcome and what did you learn from it? 

The biggest challenges in my life that I’ve had to deal with were my past suicide attempts. Both times I missed three weeks of school because I was in an outpatient facility. When I was 16 years old (junior year of high school), I attempted suicide for the second time in my life. I vividly remember laying down in the backseat of my mom’s car while she was driving me to the hospital. I’ve never seen my mom cry harder than she did that day. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t taking away my pain, but merely giving it to the people that love me. I obviously knew that my family would be heartbroken, but to see it first person changes everything. After my attempts, I learned how precious life is and it’s something I now value greatly.

Do you feel safe expressing your identity and have you always felt that way?

I feel safe expressing my identity and my struggles in life, and it’s something that I’m really open about. However, it didn’t use to be that way. I used to be embarrassed when I was growing up because I was different. Having mental illnesses was a part of me that I kept hidden growing up.

How do you think society and the media represents people with mental illness? Is it an accurate representation? 

I think times have changed for the better and we have a lot of people in the public eye opening up about their struggles with mental illness (like Lili Reinhart, Brad Pitt, Cara Delevingne). I mean, there’s even a song whose title is the suicide hotline number (by Logic). I don’t think there is a specific way people with mental illnesses are portrayed, but people are really open about it, which is amazing. It helps other people open up about their struggles and it breaks the stigma.

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