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Mental Health Awareness Month

Taylor M. White and her father when she was a child.

Taylor M. White and her father when she was a child, (Courtesy Photo)

SSgt Taylor M. White and friend a few days after an emotional episode before she was diagnosed with trichotillomania.

SSgt Taylor M. White and friend a few days after an emotional episode before she was diagnosed with trichotillomania, (Courtesy Photo).

SSgt Taylor M. White travelling in Europe during her healing process.

SSgt Taylor M. White travelling in Europe during her healing process, (Courtesy photo).

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Mental Health has been a struggle for my family since before I was even born. When I was a kid my father grappled with undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which affected everyone in my family, and eventually my own mental health. 

It used to be a running joke that, “Taylor has PTSD from her Dad’s PTSD”. While it may not be very funny in retrospect, it helped us get over a lot of those awkward silences that can follow an explosive moment.

I was fortunate my father was kind and his triggers weren’t ever violent; rather they consisted of him having an outburst if I clanged the dishes too loud during chores or things of that nature. 

To this day I don’t put glasses down directly on the table; I rest them on their side and roll them flat. When I do dishes, I stack each plate lightly one by one and then place the stack in the cabinet, rather than the common sliding of plates.

His triggers became my triggers… and then some. 

Eventually, I joined the Air Force and was dealing with stressors, trials and traumas the military brings and was internalizing them to the point that I developed a tic where I would pull out eyelashes and eyebrows. A disorder known as trichotillomania. 

One Monday I went into work after a weekend-long breakdown and had no facial hair. I looked like a walking cry for help. My supervisor recommended I reach out to mental health.

That was six years ago. I’ve been receiving therapy on and off since then and have discovered that all this time, I was coping with undiagnosed anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Some people don’t like to receive a diagnosis; feeling as though it puts them in a box. For me, it was a relief.

To know that the layers of struggles I’d been fighting with for years had a name made it easier to face them. I instantly had the mindset that, rather than wishing these parts of me didn’t exist, I needed to get to know them, become friends with them, and grow with them. 

Growing with my diagnoses has been a turbulent experience. Full of ups and downs, on and off medications, and eventually all of that grew into my current overflowing toolbox. 

At this point, I don’t have just a toolbox, but a whole shed. I began to learn which skill was required for which type of breakdown or episode I was experiencing as it was approaching, (one of my tools is a set of binoculars so I can see these hiccups coming from a mile away).

None of this is to say I’m defined by my mental health. Far from it. 

I am anxious, depressed, and struggle with PTSD; I am also resilient, strong, passionate, smart and so much more. Sometimes my diagnoses even make those traits more pronounced and beautiful. 

Being stuck Inside during a pandemic can be more stress inducing for those with mental health issues. If you find yourself in need, reach out to the mental health clinic for a helping hand.