Help, Healing, Health and Hope is the message of the new ADAMH marketing campaign and one of the faces of the campaign is Shivani Sharma, a 27-year-old full-time automotive engineer and part-time actress.
While Shivani’s involvement in the campaign came through a talent agency, she finds a very personal connection to ADAMH. Shivani lives with the diagnoses of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). And she also has struggled with an eating disorder.
“As a person with lived experience, it took me a long time to accept that is part of who I am, not something I should feel guilty about.” Shivani explained.
She said that she now has a mantra for life. “Put out in the world what would help a past version of yourself because you don’t know who you can help,” she said. It is why believes it is important to share her story.
Shivani’s mental health journey began in college, where she was hospitalized for what was then diagnosed with clinical depression. She has since recognized that going away to college was the trigger for some underlying issues.
“If you have the kind of mental health disorders like I do, that are calmed by routine, high school, with its regular class schedule, predictable extracurricular activities and homework, provides comfort,” Shivani said. “Getting to college, schedules didn’t line up. Things started to feel a little OCD OCPD,” she added.
While she initially tried counseling through her university, she ultimately made the decision to do her best to handle it on her own. She now recognizes that it is unwise to try to go it alone. Looking back, she can’t believe she was able to successfully complete her engineering degree.
It wasn’t until after college and starting a job that she sought out a therapist out of concerned about body image and weight.
“Really what came out of it was there was clearly more going on,” she said. She has learned that experiences like hers are not unique. However, it isn’t talked about.
“Everyone thinks they are alone, and they are not,” Shivani said. “I understand how people are wary about seeking help. It is very easy to convince ourselves we are lying because mental illness is in your head. It is easy to say that I am dramatic or that I am just lazy. It is easy not seek help.”
She said that it took her a long time to come to that realization and it also took time to find a person she was comfortable with in seeking therapy.
Shivani said that getting a diagnosis is important. Her diagnosis opened the door and she found there were other people with similar experiences from which she could draw upon.
Shivani sees a therapist once a week and it is the one hour every week where she is not available to anyone else. OCD and OCPD can’t be cured, and Shivani focuses on coping mechanisms. She said that her mental health diagnosis is something that she lives with, and talks about freely, with the hope that others can find a little bit of themselves in her story and take that step to reach out for help.
She is grateful that organizations like ADAMH exists and that she is pleased to be part of a campaign to help people understand that help for mental health and addiction is easily accessible.