The program teaches the students common warning signs and when, where and how to get help for themselves or their friends. The program also helps young people become more understanding and empathetic toward those who struggle with mental illness. By teaching these young adults to be more empathetic, we are building a generation wherein stigma will lose its power!
This program is taught Peer to Peer, students teaching students. With NAMI Ending the Silence, we are working to prevent a generation from struggling in silence.
NAMI will be sharing Six Stories from BYU-I students who will be our presenters for the Ending the Silence Presentation. We want to share their stories with those that come to the Website.
Sierra Hathaway: Ending the Silence
When Sierra Hathaway found out that her boyfriend Randy had anxiety, she didn’t let that keep their relationship from progressing.
She had experienced mild anxiety growing up. Her mom had been diagnosed with severe anxiety, so she thought she knew what she was getting into when she and Randy decided to get married.
“We got married and his anxiety went through the roof because it was just a new circumstance, new situation, and we talked about going to a doctor. He went to a doctor, who gave him some medication and that medication actually ended up giving him severe depression along with anxiety, not helping the anxiety at all,” Sierra said.
That situation made things harder for her since they were barely married, and she and Randy were just starting to get to know each other.
“I just remember feeling, ‘Oh, man, is this my fault? Is there something I’m doing that’s making it really bad? What can I do?’” she said. “I just didn’t know what to do. I just remember feeling completely hopeless for quite a while.”
For Sierra, her anxiety manifests through overthinking different outcomes. She said she feels the need to understand and plan out different things.
“I guess my anxiety in some ways is a gift because I have to understand,” she said. “I have to research. The more I research, the less anxious I am about something.”
She felt that the way she could help Randy would be understanding what he was going through, so she focused on more researching of anxiety and depression.
Through her experience growing up, she said she couldn’t understand Randy’s situation. She felt seasonal depression, but nothing compared to her husband’s struggles.
“When I have anxiety and panic attacks, I want to be held, I want somebody to be there with me, whereas Randy, when he has panic attacks or anxiety attacks, he kind of just wants to be left alone a little bit, in his bubble,” Sierra said. “He wants some space. He wants to know that you’re there waiting for him, but he just wants some space.”
She said it has been an experimental experience for her because she doesn’t know exactly how to act in each situation, so she tries different things and sees what works and what doesn’t.
“It takes a lot of patience to try to figure out the ins and outs to everybody’s mental illness,” she said. “But when you really care about somebody, you’re going to really try to find that out the best you can.”
Sierra said that communicating and listening have been some of the best tools in her relationship with Randy.
“I just remember reading something saying, ‘Don’t treat somebody with anxiety and depression differently because they don’t want you to look at that pain and make it stand out,’” she said. “… Trying to love that part of him, even though it was a really hard part to love was definitely a process.”
Even though the hard days tended to prevail, Sierra said she found comfort and strength in God and in her religion.
“Just praying every single day, ‘Please, just help me understand and please let’s just have a happy hour, you know, just an hour that we’re just happy,’” she said while water filled her eyes and her voice struggled to continue. Randy reached his hand to hold hers and she continued with a shy smile in her face. “Those little bits of happiness are really what kept me going because I knew it was possible. It did grow, over time.”
She encouraged people in a similar situation to be patient and if they are a religious person, to pour out their heart to God and not forget to get help for themselves when they feel the need.
“It’s important to look at your own self, at your own weaknesses first and try to strengthen those, so you can help the people that you love because I know he would have never gotten the help if I hadn’t gotten the help for myself first,” Sierra said. “We can’t help somebody if you’re not helped first.”
Sierra found that meditation and breathers help her feel better prepared mentally to be available to Randy whenever he needs her.
“Just realize that you’re not alone, that you’re not the only one helping somebody get through this,” Sierra said. “There are other ways for you to understand this and not to be afraid to get help for yourself too.”
Add your voice to Sierra Hathaway and end the silence around you.