How I Was Helped
Emily Lerman, 32, Elementary School Teacher
Q: Why were you in need of Active Minds’ services?
A: At 26, I was in the midst of a severe depressive episode. I was so sick that I had to quit my job and move back home with my parents. I had struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager, but I was always able to somehow function and get through the day. It wasn't until I was 26 that the stressors of life became too overwhelming, and I completely shut down. I couldn't think straight, couldn't eat, couldn't get out of bed. I was terrified and confused, and had little understanding of what was happening to me.
Q: Did anything specific cause your depressive episode?
A: I broke up with my boyfriend of five-and-half years and started a new job, but I want to be clear that I did not become depressed because of the break-up or new job. This is often a misunderstanding with mental illness. I was already depressed, and then two huge life events pushed me over the stress-level edge. It’s like trying to train for a marathon with a broken leg. It’s just impossible. You are too impaired.
Q: How did you connect with Active Minds?
A: When I was living at home, a colleague of my father's suggested to him that I get in touch with Active Minds. I was surprised to see the founder was a high school and college acquaintance, Alison Malmon. I was inspired by her work and felt that this was something—probably the only thing-- I could contribute to while in the midst of this depression. I reached out to her and offered to volunteer.
Q: How has Active Minds helped you?
A: When I connected with Active Minds, I connected with people who understood what I was going through -- and that understanding, compassion, and acceptance was the first step to healing. Had I not connected with Active Minds, I'm not sure how my story would have ended. Active Minds gave me a place to go when I felt as though I belonged nowhere. They gave me a reason to believe in myself and believe that I could, and would, get better, and that I had value in this world.
Because many of them had been there themselves, they absolutely understood what I was going through, and they knew I'd come out of it. And when you're depressed, believe me-- that kind of understanding is everything.
Q: What intangibles have you taken away from your work with Active Minds?
A: Increased self-confidence, knowledge and understanding of mental health issues, acceptance of myself and my illness, a desire to help others, a belief that I can make a difference, and the knowledge that sharing my story can be a life-saver for those who suffer.
A marathoner, Emily has raised more than $120,000 for Active Minds through running sponsorships and fundraising, including spearheading two half marathons to honor a friend, Ari Johnson, who died by suicide in 2013. Emily’s friends and family have also supported Active Minds. Her three siblings have all run to support the organization, and her father now serves as Chairman of the Board.