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Sharing Our Story – Brianna Acevedo-Franchino

Mental illness is something I’ve lived with for as long as I can remember. It was first diagnosed when I was 14 years old. Up until then, I thought the way I felt was completely normal. At the time, my mother was going through a kidney transplant surgery with my uncle, and my father wasn’t a good support. I became someone who carried the well-being of the family and carried my grades in school. While other aspects of my home life fell apart, my mental health deteriorated.
Growing up in a Puerto Rican family, mental health was something never spoken about. I told my parents once that I was feeling depressed and like life wasn’t worth living, and it didn’t go so well. My father stated no one in his family has anything like that, so it wasn’t true. My mother said that I had nothing to be depressed about since I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back and toys in my room. For years to come, I was battling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. I was moved to a shelter for abused children for a while when I was 16, and I grew to gain the support and family I needed through school friends and staff members. Though I found this new support throughout my school years, I still faced the stigma at home regarding the idea that depression and other mental illnesses didn’t exist.
As of recent years, I’ve found my happiness within my own family of my husband, our friends, and our pets. He too suffers from mental illness so we both have a deeper understanding of what the other goes through. Despite this, I still suffer from the pain and stigma of have multiple mental illnesses. Having a regular job can be difficult because there are days I can’t even bring myself to get out of bed or put on work clothes or eat food, and even though there are systems in place to protect people’s jobs who deal with chronic illnesses, I still get increasing anxiety any time I have to call out sick from work due to it. Even at doctor’s appointments I face stigma; recently I had asked for anti-depressants from a doctor and their response was that I didn’t look like someone with a mental illness.
Everything in life can have an impact on us. Work environments, family dynamics, social situations, side-effects from medications…the list goes on. It’s been a struggle to fight a daily battle, but I look forward to a time people like myself won’t have to. I believe the path to that is more education on mental health and understanding how it can unfortunately consume lives.

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