At 12 years old Chelsea started having paranoia thoughts so severe, at age 14 her mother took her to the hospital. She was admitted and stayed in hospital for one month and a half where she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and later schizophrenia. “It was hard to accept my diagnosis at first. I didn’t know what it would mean and what kind of future I would have,” she says. “My mother would go out of her way to visit me when I was in the hospital. I had family members who acted differently around me because of my illness but my mother was always there for me. She kept me going.”
Chelsea went to a therapeutic day school where she was able to get mental health support along with her classes. “School was difficult for me because I’d get anxious,” she says. “I also had to miss a lot of school because of doctors’ appointments so it was difficult to keep up with assignments.” With the support of her family, especially her mother, she was able to graduate high school and attend college.
Making friends and feeling comfortable talking to people was challenging for Chelsea due to her anxiety. She volunteers with SSO and is a member of the Youth Advisory Council. She helped SSO with the SOUND OFF youth summit, assisting in presenting the report and speaking to the audience about her experiences. She says SSO helped her break out of her shell. “I was really shy and volunteering with SSO allowed me to connect with other young people living with mental illness. Seeing how open people were about their illness inspired me to talk about my struggles and what I’ve been through. I felt like I was understood and now I feel so much more confident,” she says.
Today Chelsea finds that staying on a routine that includes regular doctor’s appointments is a key to staying well. She is taking courses online and finds being around her pets to be therapeutic. Now that she feels comfortable talking about her illness and her struggles, she hopes to inspire others. “Mental illness isn’t something a lot of people want to talk about but many people are struggling. I want to share my story and hopefully that will show others that it’s okay to speak up and use their voice.”
If you’re interested in having Chelsea speak, please contact Michael Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org