Strength in Vulnerability

May 14th, 2019

Kayla, like so many, was often told that vulnerability about her mental health was a sign of weakness. Today, she recognizes that openness and honesty is the true source of strength.

NAME — Kayla Rodriguez

AGE — 20

OCCUPATION — Corporate Management major at Lipscomb University, Customer Service Assistant at Valvoline

HOMETOWN — Brooklyn, NY

FUN FACT — Kayla has a rare bleeding disorder called Dysfibrinogenemia

How would you define yourself?

“I’m hardworking and logical when it comes to situations. I’ve also been told that sometimes I can be too serious.”

What is your experience with mental illness?

“Growing up, my grandma and my mom and I all struggled with mental illness. My grandma suffers from depression and anxiety. My mom – anxiety. I suffer from anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, paranoia, ADHD, eating disorders, PTSD, and body dysmorphic disorder.”

Have you ever gone to counseling? If so, what was your experience like and what would you tell others about counseling?

“I went to therapy as a teen, but I didn’t feel like it helped. It always made me more angry because I didn’t feel helped. They didn’t get to the root of issues – I was just there for no reason. But in counseling now, I feel like I’ve improved. My current counselor had me redo my intake form so I could see the progress side-by-side. Seeing my progress has been so rewarding and feels good. Everyone deals with things differently. Whatever works for you, look into that kind of counseling. If you think you could benefit from counseling, at least try it once. If you feel like it’s not helping, then at least talk to a friend, someone.”

Why are you passionate about mental health awareness?

“I really hate the notion around mental health that says ‘you’re broken’ or that you need to be in a psych ward. I even had that notion until I started dealing with it myself. I don’t like the idea that men can’t open up or have mental health problems, too. They should be able to be as vulnerable and open as they need. Talking to someone you trust isn’t weakness and vulnerability or putting your problems on people. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to open up to someone.”

What do you want to change about mental health and awareness of it?

“I want to change the stigma that we can’t be vulnerable with each other. Honestly, the reason I sometimes post about what I’m going through is because I want people to know they can be vulnerable. They’re not the only one going through it. I want to be there for others since I know what it’s like to feel alone and need to get out of that depression. I want talking about mental health to be a positive thing. Dealing with it is hard, but there should be a positive notion so people feel they can talk to others about what they’re going through.”

Even though you struggle with mental illness, that doesn't define you. What would you want others to know about yourself?

“I’ve been through a lot, and I don’t necessarily open up to a lot of people. Being vulnerable is hard because when I start to feel safe, that person might do something that makes me feel unsafe. Being able to talk now about what I’ve been through is a big step – I wasn’t always proud of it before.”

What do you want others to know about mental illness?

“Mental illness isn’t something with a simple ‘cure.’ Yes, someone suffering from mental illness is broken in a way, but it doesn’t mean they can’t get better or that their struggle will ‘make you sick.’ That’s what we usually think as a society – that it’s contagious – but that’s not true. We need to treat it better instead of treating people badly because they struggle with their mental health. People don’t typically know how to react and thus treat that person terribly, which only hurts that person even more.”

My name is Kayla, and I am not defined by my struggle with mental health.

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