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Hitting Home Series: Pauleanna Reid Speaks on Her 6-year Battle with Mental Illness

"The day I opened up was the day my life changed." 

She is a successful entrepreneur, a motivational speaker and an author. However, just as it is with every success story, Pauleanna Reid has surmounted challenges to get to where she is today. Reid had a bitter struggle with depression and now a survivor, she is very outspoken about an illness that she once shied away from opening up about. In her interview for the Hitting Home Series, the trailblazer speaks on her long battle with mental illness, why she finally opened up about the illness and the lifestyle changes that improved her mental health. Here are the excepts of the interview:

Who is Pauleanna Reid?
Pauleanna Reid (@PauleannaR on Twitter) is a multi-passionate entrepreneur who fought for her dreams and won.
 
What caused the depression?
There are so many layers to that story. There are many things that contributed to my illness but I think the main thing is - growing up not believing that I was enough, having low self-esteem, low self-confidence, fighting for my dreams and not necessarily having those support systems needed to help me succeed and I would look into the mirror and I wouldn’t like what I see. 
 
Bullying also played a major role ...
I was bullied throughout high school. I remember In highschool, I was teased for how I walked, how I dressed. I often felt isolated. I was often called white-washed. I was called names. I really felt like an outsider. That’s pretty much where it (the mental illness) started from.
 
On attempting suicide twice in year 2008
I think it was just that I wanted an escape. I wanted to experience freedom. I no longer wanted to go through mental and emotional torture. At the time, that (suicide) was the easiest way out. By God’s grace, He spared me, not once but twice. I knew that if He is giving me another opportunity, I wasn’t going to waste it. 
 
On opening up about her depression

It really wasn’t until 2010 when I went to see my doctor. That was probably the first time that I really acknowledged that I was ill. I was encouraged to speak to a therapist, I was encouraged to speak to my pastor, I was encouraged to connect with mentors. Talking about it was one of the best therapies because I realized that I was not alone. I realized that I had help. 

 
Why did opening up take so long?
Well, because of the stigma. A lot of times, people don’t understand what a mental illness is. So for me it was like, even though I might have said things here and there, I just felt like no one believed me. It was a horrible feeling but when I reached my peak, I was like, "I need to something about this". I dropped out of school, I dropped out of college because I was in a program that I didn’t like. This other thing I did is that I went to see my doctor.
 
What was the treatment like - a lot of medication, mostly counselling or both?
It was both. The side effects with the medication were drowsiness, headaches. After taking the pills for quite sometime, I became addicted to it and it made me feel worse than better. So, after speaking with my pastor, I was encouraged to cut it off full-time and I made the decision to do so because I really wanted to try other avenues to improve my mental health. That meant increasing exercise, listening to music, also, having myself mentors. 
 
What is your advice to people who constantly feel depressed that can encourage them to open up about it?
Silence makes the fight seem harder and a lot longer. So, the first thing I would suggest is to talk to somebody. The day I opened up was the day my life changed for the better. I was able to get treatment. The biggest issue is silence. It is what people are suffering from.
 

Connect with Pauleanna Reid via her website http://pauleannareid.com/home.
 
About the author:
Chiamaka Mogo is a media consultant, social justice advocate, blogger (www.blurredcreations.com) and Public Administration scholar based in Canada's capital - Ottawa. 
 
Our Hitting Home Stories are true stories that take courage to share and through them we hope to raise awareness about chronic diseases in Africa, and to inspire you to get started or keep at your journey to better health and wellbeing.
 

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