Marlee was 18 when her mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
“My mom was my best friend,” Marlee said in an interview. “We did everything together.”
Not long after her diagnosis, Marlee’s mother moved in with Marlee’s grandparents and Marlee left for college.
Journeying Through Grief and Anxiety as a Young Person
Around this time is also when Marlee’s anxiety, which had started in high school, increased exponentially.
“I had always had an amazing, nurturing mother, and now she couldn’t be there for me in college and was getting more and more ill,” Marlee recalled.
It was too much: After graduating with a 3.8 from high school, Marlee went to college, flunked out of classes, and changed into “a different person because I wanted to hide the pain.” She also became suicidal.
“The Worst Year”: Loss, Heartbreak, and Major Depression
2018 was “the worst year” of Marlee’s life. By this time, her mother was dying and Marlee was dealing with major depression.
After a long friendship ended in early 2018, Marlee intentionally crashed her car into a median, was “Baker-acted,” and spent the next 48 hours in a psychiatric facility. (The Baker Act, also known as the “Florida Mental Health Act,” allows for an individual to be committed to a psych unit against their will, if they pose a threat to themselves or others.)
Things would get worse before they got better. Marlee had been in a very serious relationship that was failing while her mom was dying. Two weeks after her mom passed away on August 14, “my boyfriend who I thought I was going to marry broke up with me.”
A Dad’s Intervention and the Turning Point
After her break-up and the death of her mother, Marlee moved in with her dad.
“My family saw parts of me that they’d never seen before,” she recalled of that time.
One day in early September, Marlee’s dad “came into my room and said, ‘I’m taking you somewhere, and this is where we’re going—and then he took me to FHE Health.”
Marlee was there for 21 days:
At first, I absolutely hated it, but my therapist was amazing. In a couple of days, I accepted that I needed help and began to trust the process. I moved pretty quickly through the program, and it completely changed my life.
What Helped in Treatment
What helped Marlee most in treatment? She mentioned a number of things:
- A clearer diagnosis
- Some new medication
- Individual therapy
- Journaling, including a letter that her therapist had her write to that ex-boyfriend
- Integral breathwork
- Exercises in mindfulness and gratitude
- Participation in group activities
At the completion of treatment, Marlee did not want to leave.
“When Day 21 came and Dad came to get me, I literally cried and wanted to stay,” she said. She added that if it hadn’t been for FHE, she “would not be alive right now.”
Life After Treatment: Why It Was Worth It
Today, at 33, Marlee is happily married and hoping to start a family. She still has days when getting out of bed can be a struggle and the anxiety and depression are a challenge, but now Marlee has the tools that she needs to cope and have a healthy relationship, thanks to treatment.
At the time of our interview, Marlee was thinking about World Mental Health Day (October 10) that week and had the following message: “First, mental health is so important, and second, if you’re motivated and know you need help and are willing to work towards it, treatment can help and is the answer.”
A Mental Health Pet Peeve That Increases the Stigma
Marlee also shared a personal pet peeve that, from her experience, contributes to mental health stigmas:
The issue with mental health is that I’ll say, ‘I can’t get out of bed and am having a rough day,’ and a friend will say, ‘What do you mean? You’re married. You’re going on a honeymoon. You’re beautiful.’ That’s the problem: On the outside, you can look perfect, and no one knows you’re hurting. They may act surprised and say, ‘But you’re pretty. Why would you be depressed?’ They don’t understand I have a chemical imbalance.
Words of Encouragement for Anyone Hurting
If Marlee could offer a word of encouragement to someone struggling with mental illness, what would it be?
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said. “Don’t be ashamed because everyone is going through a struggle that you don’t know about. Stay focused on your treatment goals and following the steps and going through the entire process of treatment and therapy. It’s important to go through the whole process and dive in.”
There’s no shame in getting help for a mental health disorder or a drug or alcohol problem. That’s the message of our “No More Shame” campaign, which seeks to reduce the stigma surrounding these health issues. In continuation of that theme, this story is part of a regular series featuring the true stories of people who asked for help and found hope and healing.