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Mental Health

The Messy History of a Licensed Psychologist

Country of Origin: Uruguay

Trigger warning: This piece includes themes of self-harm. 

I have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), ED (eating disorder), depression, severe anxiety, and ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder). I’ve always gone to therapy because my mother is a psychologist. 

I can’t even remember my age when I started, but I had more than five psychologists. I established a rapport with none until my first visit to a psychiatrist, when my undeniable mental health was crumbling. My psychiatrist never gave me a proper answer, but she was, and still is the only therapist who I felt did not give up on me. As I said, various psychologists went in and out of my life. Many diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder.

Since I was young, I was always labelled as the “bad,” “problematic,” “rebellious,” and “naughty” kid in every era, from kindergarten to adulthood. People often didn’t even remember my name, but they recognised that out of 14 cousins, I was the troublesome one.

So I started to believe that too, and my behaviour didn’t change; in fact, it worsened throughout my development stages.

And as a teen, I started cutting. At first, it was little doodles: a heart in deep red and bitter clots. After that, my body felt numb, with no sadness, no feeling of being misunderstood or good, pretty and skinny. It was just that red, thick liquid running slowly down my skin, falling through the sink. After that, my high school suggested my parents take me to a psychiatrist.

Hello, psychiatric medication; I still take them from age thirteen to today. I still take them, though I haven’t even now been properly diagnosed.

I can’t remember what happened during my first depression episode; I only have blurry memories of the fourteen days I was sent to a psychiatric ward and how I didn’t leave my room the whole time I stayed there. 

After that, my depression began to fade, though I was never the same again. Alcohol, drugs, kisses with older men, oral sex and so on were part of my adolescence. My grades were awful, and it took me almost nine years to finish high school.

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Of course, I felt like no one cared. I was already the disappointment of my family and always have been, so they just didn’t even try to understand me, not when I was a toddler, when I was a teenager, or even now. I am working with my therapist on it, don’t worry!

When I decided to apply to college, the OCD set in. Perfect became my goal in every aspect of my life. All my focus was on my studies. My first panic attack happened during class hours; I remember running out of the class and just collapsing in the hallway,

In my second year, my goal was to maintain my perfect grades and lose some weight. I´ve always been chubby, and now, after a few months, anorexia nervosa knocked on my door. I received her like someone I had been waiting for my whole meaningless life. Binge eating eventually appeared, and that was when my whole controlled, perfect life crumbled. 

This is where I am right now, fighting eating disorders, a second depressive episode, and having all my other mental problems against the odds.

But now, as a clinical psychologist, I know how to fight.

We don’t have to give in to the social belief that we are a problem that needs to be fixed, changed, or eradicated.

Rather, we believe that people with mental health issues must be treated with compassion and provided with equal rights. Rather than focusing on the disability or disordered aspect of mental health, we focus on our strengths and learn how to rely on them.  

Your presence in this world is important, and you deserve to be cherished, loved, and helped. Let your strengths, creativity, kindness, ideas, and so on, teach the world to be more compassionate. My biggest strength is helping others; doing so makes me feel worth it and empowered, despite and because of my experience, even as hurtful as they are, gave me tools to lift others from their own struggles and dark places. I see a little hope in those little steps of others on their path to wellness.

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(Photo courtesy of iStock)

As we grow older, we start learning and differentiating one emotion from the other, and at the same time, our range of emotions gets bigger. Defiant behaviour sometimes is a sign of depression and/or frustration because you haven’t yet developed the emotional tools to make others understand what you are really feeling. My adolescence was marked by naughty, unruly behaviour that I had been carrying since childhood, which became dangerous and painful to me. I did not have the tools to understand what I was feeling. Past trauma had left its marks on me. Adulthood marked the desire to maintain control of my life, appetite, and surroundings instead of letting my emotions have control of me again. And yet, many times, I failed.

My role today as a social psychologist focuses on getting mental health the proper awareness it deserves. We need to raise awareness for this marginalised, stigmatised, labelled and misunderstood community regarding mental health and the lack of opportunities that low socioeconomic status communities have in accessing education and healthcare.

Today, I work in a private organisation for almost six years as a clinical psychologist, both with group therapy between employees and employers and individual follow-ups in case it is necessary. This year, I received the incredible opportunity to start working with the jail population by making new programs that focus more on rehabilitation rather than punishment alone. DINALI is a subsection inside the Ministry of Defence in charge of the Uruguayan policies related to imprisoned people. My main area will be helping people close to finishing their sentences. The main goals are reinsertion into society. I want to give them tools on how and where they can get help on having their basic needs satisfied (food, clothes, a roof above their heads), getting a job and start working on their social life to build a close circle that helps them find purpose in life and feel loved and appreciated. 

Sometimes I’m still a mess. Sometimes you might be too. But as I’ve learned throughout every painful twist in my life, if you can’t help yourself, help others.

Thank you to Christina Lee for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Mental Health team.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to the DG Sentinel, please visit our submissions page here.

Uruguayan writer and social psychologist Valentina Bobre Sisiasvili graduated from Universidad Católica Del Uruguay with a minor in criminology. She has also developed her knowledge at the University of Leeds. Valentina has volunteered in mental health groups regarding schizophrenia in low socioeconomic status communities and critical state schools with young adults who have neurological problems and low IQ, now she is focusing her work on people who is close to getting out of jail, giving them tools when they are out, regarding basic needs and a dignified job. For more information about the author, please visit her LinkedIn, Valentina (Flor) Bobre | LinkedIn (linked in her author name above or https://www.linkedin.com/in/valentinabobre/) or contact her via email: Bobrevalentina@gmail.com.

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