Emma Brooks: Finding the Right Mental Health Meds Is a Process

Emma Brooks is a model and influencer. For PS's Radical Honesty issue, she discusses finding the right medication for her mental health. Read more radically honest stories here.

My journey started when I was 12, because that's when I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression, but I started medication alongside therapy when I was 14. It's been an interesting journey. I feel as though I've come a very long way — it's been a long time of trial and error, and lots of learning, and lots of really high highs and really low lows.

I have not let it dictate my life or control me; I just let it be a part of who I am.

I got the bipolar diagnosis when I was 18. My therapist had mentioned to me that I had bipolar-like tendencies, but it's a very complicated diagnosis because it is something that can get misdiagnosed. She wanted to make sure that it was what we were looking at, because it is a completely different treatment. Even now with medication, there are crossovers — right now, I only take mood stabilizers, because antidepressants can counteract mood stabilizers. It's super intricate. You have to be very self-aware. I'm very cautious with it, because I feel very out-of-body sometimes, and sometimes I worry that I don't trust myself enough. You never know if your first instinct is you or if it's the right decision or the wrong one, but I've gotten really good with it.

But it's a process. I've felt the worst I've ever felt, and I have been hospitalized twice. And those were probably my lowest points. And I've dealt with addiction. Those parts of my life have helped create this person who I am now, someone who has really just taken control over my mental health. I have not let it dictate my life or control me; I just let it be a part of who I am. I've learned a lot about myself in the last 10 years, and the last four years that I've really known that I have bipolar.

It's all very true, what they say about coping skills and support systems. It really does work. The past few years for me has probably been the best mental health space I've been in throughout my 22 years of life. I've been in therapy and I'm on a proper medical schedule. But even last year, I tried out not being medicated, and it really has been my support system that has really just done it for me. I have such wonderful people in my life who have been there for me. And I've relied on knowing that at my core, I am a good person. I know that, and the people around me know that. I feel grateful, because I know that finding a good support system is really difficult, and I've been really blessed with that.

I don't want to hide it, because I do think mental health needs to be more normalized and destigmatized.

I started at a young age talking about mental health, and that's around when I went to the hospital for the first time, and that was obviously a really intense experience. I think at that time I didn't know how common it was, but then after the fact I realized that there are a lot of adolescents and a lot of people who are hospitalized and have to go through this and are in really intense circumstances. I'm a pretty open person in general; I don't feel the need to hide it, and I don't want to hide it, because I do think mental health needs to be more normalized and destigmatized.

It is very vulnerable to share my own journey, and sometimes I get kind of insecure after the fact. But I also try to remind myself that it is something that's way more common than people talk about. It's nice, because you're able to relate to one another and know that you come from the same place internally, but everyone deals with and manages their emotions in different ways.

When I was younger, I do think I would've sought help from other people if there were more resources available, because even now there are more online resources, there are more programs, there are other ways to seek help, which I'm so happy about. I felt so alone. That's such a driving force in what people or kids deal with, this sense of loneliness, and it leads them down a worse path.

Whenever you do feel like you can relate to someone, I feel like those emotions are easier to deal with when you have someone to carry that with. I hope that's what I can give to people — someone to lean on and relate to.

Jump back to the Radically Honest issue.

— As told to Lena Felton

Lena Felton is the senior director of features and special content at POPSUGAR, where she oversees feature stories, special projects, and our identity content. Previously, she was an editor at The Washington Post, where she led a team covering issues of gender and identity.