By Amber, from Southern California
Where my story begins
It feels like I’ve been looking for good mental health care for much of my life. When I was 13, I began dealing with depression and anxiety. I was put on two medications, but I felt like a zombie for a while, so I’m pretty sure the dosage ended up being wrong. As time went on, I started feeling a lot better so I decided to go off of medication, but that only made the symptoms return.
When I became an adult, I started struggling with panic attacks. I went to counseling for a little while, but after entering an unhealthy relationship and undergoing a move, I wasn’t able to attend the sessions anymore, and I eventually ended up in a deep depression. A few years later, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which just worsened my mental state. Despite seeing doctors for my physical health, there was no one I could really lean on for my mental health.
Finally, when my father got sick, I found a psychologist to help me through everything, especially my grief when he passed away. She validated what I was feeling, helped me work through the PTSD from my toxic relationship and taught me how to break down my own walls in order to start the process of healing.
Starting with Prairie
In the midst of the pandemic, I was struggling with the quarantine and feeling isolated, so I decided to start looking for online mental healthcare. That’s when I saw an ad for Prairie Health. At first I figured it was like other services out there, but what really convinced me to sign up was the genetic report. As someone who works in the medical field, I like technical explanations. I like being able to dive and ask “Okay, is this biologically correct for me?” I wanted that certainty.
As soon as I signed up, my eventual Care Coordinator Megan reached out right away and was so nice right off the bat. It was completely different than what I was expecting– I wasn’t just another patient or just another number. It was so much more personal, which was a sign of things to come.
It didn’t take long for me to realize just how much of a godsend Prairie Health was. Periodically, my Care Coordinator would send me things like “Hey, I’m thinking about you, I hope you’re doing okay.” Just that check-in really made a huge difference. While I know it’s her job, it’s obvious how much she cares and feels empowering to have somebody thinking of me and reaching out.
My psychiatrist, Dr. Ravi, has also been amazing. We had been discussing starting on a new medication since I had been on one for a while, but changing medications is difficult because of the medications I’m taking for my other conditions. He actually went so far as to talk to my pharmacist to discuss my medication plan because he wanted to make sure my medication plan was safe for me. While we eventually decided to stick with my existing medication, it was so helpful to get a psychiatrist’s opinion on what I’m taking and what medication could help me in the future.
With Prairie’s help, my mental health has improved to the point where I feel like I’m able to manage on my own and see how things go. As time went on, when I would meet with my Care Coordinator, we’d run out to things to say because I was doing so well.
Prairie changed not only my mental health, but also my overall health. I have many comorbid conditions, so I see a lot of doctors. Now, I know I can take the genetic report to each and every one of them and say, “Okay, this is what my body does, and any medications needs to be cross-referenced with this.” Everybody’s on the same page and knows what works for me. I feel like I’m much more in control of my health, and that I now have a voice in my treatment decisions with my test results in hand.
Why I’m sharing my story
When I was in high school, I would tell people that I was going to see a therapist, and they would act like I was crazy or ask what was wrong with me. That is the exact wrong way to approach mental health.
Ever since then, I’ve wanted to normalize the discussion about taking care of your mental health, especially because you may be helping someone who needs to hear just that when you open up the discussion. One way I’ve put this into practice in my own life is with my stepdaughter. I talk to her about mental health all the time and we take “mental health days” together. Whether it’s self-care like getting our nails done, shopping, or even just silently watching a movie together. She knows she can always open up to me if she’s struggling. She has recently started her own mental health journey with a therapist. I’m so proud that she isn’t internalizing the stigma of asking for help that I felt at her age.
I want to live in a world where nobody thinks that having a mental illness is shameful or something to hide. It’s just something that needs to be addressed by professionals, like with any other condition. Hopefully sharing my story moves us closer to that reality.
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