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Blog Series: The Many Faces of Perseverance Featuring Brianna Lombardo

The Many Faces Of Perseverance Blog Series. I thought it would be nice to take the filter out of our daily lives and to be able to relate to many different people about struggles that we each face. I am learning everyday to embrace the struggles we go through, instead of fearing them. I am learning that everything we go through is putting us on our path and helping us grow. I am learning that even when its uncomfortable and hard that we are learning so much about ourselves and that our struggles are shaping us into a better version of ourselves. I hope you gain guidance, inspiration, and support from this series – Alexa

Brianna, what made you want to share your story?

I was ten years old when my peace was interrupted by anxiety and for the last twenty years, I’ve been learning what it means to live with it. My hope is that sharing my story will touch someone else grieving and also processing what living with mental illness is like. My hope is that this story shows people we are much more than our depression or anxiety or OCD. My hope is to give you hope in any way possible and to share with you that life beyond mental illness is possible.


I was ten years old sitting in what is typically a holy place of peace and reflection when everything shifted out of focus and cold sweat broke out over my body. As I sat in the church pew surrounded by my unbothered classmates, I asked myself if I was dying, that if my last breath on earth would be here in the church among the crucifixes and statues of the Virgin Mary. It seemed like years before both breath and heartbeat finally evened out and I emerged from the building where sunlight bathed my body in warmth.

I was ten years old when I experienced my first anxiety attack and it would continue for many years after that initial experience. I avoided public spaces and play dates and only confided in my closest friend out of fear for what my peers would say about my strange behavior. It wasn’t until my mom brought me out of the house at small intervals calmly explaining how everything would be alright and that nobody was paying attention to the girl with eyes darting around desperately searching for the nearest exit and clutching onto her mother’s arm as if she’d disappear into the crowd at any moment. For years, I felt paralyzed by my anxiety and during those years, we worked together as a family to work through my phobias.

Growing up, we’d managed with routine outings and talking through why I felt anxious as a family. It helped and for a while, I thought it had worked. But mental illness has a dark sense of humor, and I wouldn’t fully understand its capabilities until I was so deep into my depression I couldn’t imagine life beyond the veils of sadness and hopelessness.

I was in a committed relationship when my anxiety, obsessive compulsive behavior, and depression set in. Neither my boyfriend at the time nor his family understood my mental health, and that was when I truly got a taste of how stigmatized and taboo the subject really is. Fortunately, my family has a long line of mental illness in our family and were well-equipped to know when it was time to get me to a doctor.

I didn’t protest.

So, on the day of my first appointment with my psychiatrist, I sat across from this man who literally became my saving grace. As I spilled tears all over myself and the carpet, I felt lighter. The more I let go and unburdened myself, the harder I cried and the deeper of a release I felt within my soul. I was recommended to a therapist for talk therapy and prescribed both anti-anxiety and anti-depressants. Even though I’ve learned to manage my anxiety and recognize that pivotal moment where I start to spiral into another depression, I still get sad. I still cry. I still ache and can’t sleep some nights and worry about the world ending and wonder how to tell my supervisor at work I can’t come into work because I can’t get out of bed.

And I’m not ashamed to admit to any of it. In fact, my favorite part of my story is immediately after my appointment, my boyfriend had planned a surprise 25th birthday at Wrigley Field with some of our closest friends and I walked into the bleacher section half happy, half dazed from the small dosage of Clonapin I’d taken prior to him picking me up. It was such a pivotal birthday celebration because here I was trying to understand what living with depression would be like while also singing “Go, Cubs, Go!” like I hadn’t just cried in a room for a full 90 minutes. This was my new normal—the in-between of feeling on top of the world one day and completely helpless another.

It’s been a long five years, but I’ve learned to love this part of myself, the part most of us do our best to hide. The vulnerable parts. The parts that don’t make sense. The parts we cover up with flowery images on social media and the “everything is fine” smile. I’m here to tell you it’s OK to expose those less-than-appealing parts of yourself we loathe. I am also here to tell you that despite what you think, mental illness isn’t weird or shouldn’t be taboo. In fact, we should talk about it all the time. It should be a conversation between everyone—your family, friends, employers, significant others. Instead of hiding in the dark and feeling ashamed, we should own our mental illness with conviction in order to eradicate the stigma.

I am lucky. My support system is mighty. I have unconditional love from family and friends. Other people aren’t so lucky, which is why I’m so open about sharing my own dealings with depression and anxiety. I want people who are suffering to know they aren’t alone, that someone is advocating for them and will advocate on their behalf. Mental illness is a lonely sort of island where even though we’re among others like us, it can be a very isolating experience if we let it consume us.

Not only am I lucky even after all things considered, I am not defined by my mental illness. I used to be afraid to open up about my depression and anxiety, but after hours of therapy I know I am so much more. Sure, I have bad days, like really, terrible, awful, debilitating days where it’s almost impossible to move a limb. I have days where I want to scream and I lose it over the smallest incident. I have days when I’m exhausted even after getting 12 hours of sleep. But I still don’t define myself by any of these.

I am a yoga teacher, a writer, a runner, a foodie, a lover of animals, a vegetarian. I am an empath and deep thinker. I am interested in astrology and believe in soul mates. I’m still searching for mine. I am introverted, but I need my “me” time. I love art and poetry and languages I don’t speak. Depression and anxiety just happen to come with the total package, and I embrace all parts of it.

I was ten years old when my peace was interrupted by anxiety and for the last twenty years, I’ve been learning what it means to live with it. My hope is that sharing my story will touch someone else grieving and also processing what living with mental illness is like. My hope is that this story shows people we are much more than our depression or anxiety or OCD. My hope is to give you hope in any way possible and to share with you that life beyond mental illness is possible.

Brianna Lombardo

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