A Note To Self

Mental Health Awareness Project Participant Gallery

James Velasquez

What mental health challenges do you experience?

As my therapist put it, I was “mind fucked” since my early childhood. From age five, I experienced sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. I was in survival mode most of my life. As I got older, raising my own family, the challenges didn’t get easier. Men generally aren’t the most emotionally intelligent. In my family growing up, we never talked about mental or emotional help. You were just supposed to be strong and carry on like nothings wrong. Finally, when my 19 year marriage collapsed, I had what would be best described as a complete mental and emotional breakdown. I didn’t recognize the man I was. It was a very dark time in my life. After a good friend reminded me over a two conversation to “stay in the fight”, I finally asked for help. I will forever be grateful for those who provided that help.

What helps with your mental health challenges?

What helps me most is realizing I’m not alone. Therapy is wonderful! Assuming your mental issues aren’t severe enough to merit help is a horrible mistake. Talking about my challenges and navigating stressful situations helps as well. Learning to be present, limiting my impulse reactions, and prioritizing my peace helps the most.

What are some things you would like to share about your mental health challenges?

There’s no situation you cannot grow from, learn from, and come out happy and healthy. It takes work.

Write a positive note to yourself, share anything you would like to tell yourself about your mental health challenges.

James, Today is a great day to be human. Show yourself the grace and love God has given you. You’re loved.

Linda Yearley-Stephens

What mental health challenges do you experience? 

I suffer from major depressive disorder and anxiety which has led to significant challenges with sleep patterns and day to day activities.

What helps with your mental health challenges?

The things that have really helped are going to the gym, talking to friends/therapist and remembering to get some sun/go outside.

What are some things you would like to share about your mental health challenges?

I think that there is a stigma with mental health and serving in the military. I was fortunate enough to have leadership that recognized my struggles and helped me get help. Not everyone is that fortunate and often times, seeking treatment is seen negatively. Living with mental health challenges is not easy but showing myself grace and having a good support system has proven to be beneficial.

Write a positive note to yourself, share anything you would like to tell yourself about your mental health challenges. 

My mental health issues may always be there but I am strong enough to continue to make progress and humble enough to know I need help at times.

Jayleen Aragon

What mental health challenges do you experience? 

In 2021 I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of trauma from a Sexual Assault in College and Stalking from an abusive ex boyfriend more recently.

What helps with your mental health challenges?

Therapy helped me understand the fears and stressors I was facing as a result of my trauma. Being able to talk to my therapist about my thoughts, worries, and nightmares helped me learn how to cope with them and be able to self soothe when I felt disturbed or anxious.

What are some things you would like to share about your mental health challenges?

PTSD effects a lot of people, not just those who have served overseas. It is scary enough to face on it's own, but it is so much better to handle with a team, even if that team is just 1 other person.

Write a positive note to yourself, share anything you would like to tell yourself about your mental health challenges. 

Being able to talk to a therapist taught me how to face my thoughts head on instead of being afraid of them. Rather than being embarrassed or ashamed of my diagnosis I take pride in sharing my story with others to encourage them to seek help and talk about their issues in order to get the help they need.

Phelisha Dimas

What mental health challenges do you experience? 

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for about 12 years. What triggered it was severe postpartum depression but lead to so much more as time went on. At the time I was not educated on the mood disorder that can happen after having a child. I became aware when I started studying mental health with my degree. I have come a long way but do struggle still with anxiety and depression. The symptoms I have struggled with throughout this time period of the 12 years is: racing thoughts, lack of motivation, irritability, feelings of being alone, helplessness, depressed mood, panic attacks, low self-esteem, poor concentration, and suicidal ideations. Some of the stated symptoms have been on and off and some only a few times, however any severe mental health symptoms are a battle to overcome when one is not aware, not educated on the issue, no support, or embarrassed to share because of the stigma. The biggest challenge was within myself and overcoming my fear to share my mental health issues. Without overcoming that fear I might not be here today.

What helps with your mental health challenges?

The things that help with my mental health challenges are working out, guided meditations, calming music, daily vitamins, enough sleep at night, time alone, being present with my children, being outside/walks, therapy, and journaling.

What are some things you would like to share about your mental health challenges?

My journey has been an uphill battle as anyone that faces mental health issues will understand. Being a mental health clinician had me thinking that I knew it all and I was able to do it alone because I have the understanding and background. I feel like I am harder on myself because I have that knowledge, but regardless of my education I had to remind myself that I was human, and my behaviors were reactions of my past. As you get older you get a better understanding of life and what is important. What’s helped me is my maturity to understand why I did the things I did and move forward by learning how to forgive myself as well as others. Although the struggles of my mental health issues were/are difficult it has made me who I am today and today I am stronger than yesterday.

Write a positive note to yourself, share anything you would like to tell yourself about your mental health challenges. 

You have come so far Phelisha, and I want to thank you for being so strong. I see you fighting everyday. I see that smile everyday. I see you showing up everyday. Putting yourself first has brought you so far, and filling your own cup has done you wonders !!! Keep putting in the work into yourself it will always be worth it, because at the end of the day you’re the only person you can count on. But the most important reminder is you have two beautiful girls that count on you as well, so you can never give up on being the best you. The best you is the best for them, the happy you is the best for them. Keep up the good work. YOUR WORTH IT. LOVE ME. ALWAYS.

Dominique Rodarte Archuleta

What mental health challenges do you experience? 

Major depression, severe anxiety, suicidal thoughts.

What helps with your mental health challenges?

What helps me with my mental health challenges is calling my mom since she has always been my shoulder to lean on, listening to music because it makes me feel connected with others who deal with the same, or reading my Bible to be reassured that I am going to be okay.

What are some things you would like to share about your mental health challenges?

These challenges don't have the hold on me that they used to. I am able to push myself to accomplish my day-to-day routines. There are days when I need to reset because life becomes overwhelming, but I get back up the next day and try again. I've embraced the fact that I will be living with depression and anxiety for the rest of my life. From 16 to 20 I had not been able to hold a job. At 21 I pushed myself to start reaching for my goals. I took baby steps and soon was making massive leaps and bounds. At 25 I am able to share my story and struggles through the book I have written and published, Sunflowers in the Dark.

Write a positive note to yourself, share anything you would like to tell yourself about your mental health challenges. 

Dominique, You are a beautiful person. I thank God every day that you never gave up. You fought so hard and so passionately to become who you are today. You are so loved by your family, your students, your colleagues, and even yourself. Every day is a new journey, and you always make it on to the next. Be kind to yourself, you do the best you can. I can't ever thank you enough for wanting to live. Your life is beautiful, wonderful, and amazing. I love who you were, who you are, and who you will be. Love always, Who you are right now.

To purchase Dominque's book - Sunflowers in the Dark, A memoir of living with depression and anxiety, visit her website: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/sunflowers-in-the-dark