Lived Experience Stories

Setbacks Can Become SetUPs

Amanda Young (she/her) is a passionate and colorful woman who was born into a loving family in Dallas, TX. In 2015, Amanda graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Psychology. She started her career working with animals from killer whales to elephants, but her mental health challenges gave her some unexpected curve balls that led her to where she is now.

From the outside, Amanda appeared to have the perfect life: a supportive family, an incredible husband, great friends and a very uniquely exciting career. However, on the inside, she was battling multiple invisible illnesses that had yet to rear their powerful heads.

In high school, Amanda experienced severe anxiety and deep depression that led to regular thoughts of suicide. Amanda recounts feeling like she was drowning in her own skin; like she was fighting a constant battle in her own mind that no one else could see. She frequently questioned if life was worth living. She felt alone, ashamed and convinced that she had done something wrong to experience these feelings. Amanda wondered if everyone else felt this way and if they did, how on earth they stayed alive.

Throughout college and her early adult life, Amanda was able to distract her undiagnosed mental illnesses with rigid structure and achievement to the point of exhaustion. In her mind, she thought that if she kept busy, she wouldn’t have time to experience the extreme lows and panic that was drastically growing. She achieved a career most only dream of: working alongside killer whales as an animal trainer, but she felt incredibly empty and unstable inside.

It wasn’t until Amanda hit rock bottom after losing her dream job to a companywide layoff that she began confiding in her husband about the swirling chaos in her mind. He urged her to seek professional medical assistance. Because of their support, in May of 2019, Amanda was officially diagnosed with two mental health disorders. She felt a temporary relief with medication and therapy, but she regressed back into her patterns of distraction and over exhaustion to escape her brewing mind.

After the global pandemic of 2020 hit, Amanda lost her job again with the rest of the world who were deemed non-essential.

“Losing a job that was so vital to my identity was soul-crushing,” Amanda recounts. “I felt worthless, pathetic, and ashamed that I was in this position yet again. My brain took it personally and that’s when I really started a slippery descent into the worst depression I’d felt since high school.”

Even after returning back to a job she had once loved, Amanda felt her mental health slipping more. She was experiencing daily panic attacks, intense mood swings and racing thoughts she couldn’t control. Amanda made the hard decision to walk away from a career she had worked and sacrificed her entire life for to focus on her mental health.

To support her recovery, Amanda decided to tap into her creative skills to focus on her growing social media platforms. Without the structure of a typical 9-5, she was able to throw herself wholly into many different projects, coining herself as a serial entrepreneur. She started a mental health-centered podcast, Sunshine + Rainbows, where she told her own story and invited guests to share how life isn’t a perfect highlight reel. She began advocating for mental health awareness and inclusivity, even breaking stigmas surrounding medication and therapy. And in the fall of 2021, she authored her first children’s book Jumo the Unicorn which quickly rose to an Amazon #1 bestseller. Media tours followed where she shared how the story was inspired by a little rhino she worked with, spreading messages of love, inclusivity and empathy.

Everything in her life seemed perfect…but she was drowning.

Her feelings of intense depression, suicidal ideation and panic were resurfacing at an alarming rate even though she was on medication for those disorders. When expressing her worsening symptoms to her primary care doctor, she was told that “everyone is depressed because of the pandemic” and given a higher prescription of anti-depressants. As the doses got higher, her mind went lower and lower to the point she was convinced there was no way out.

“I felt like the world was swirling around me, my own life and accomplishments taunting me that I couldn’t keep my thoughts under control,” Amanda recalls. “I would regularly have night terrors, insomnia and panic throughout the day, even while doing things that typically brought me joy. I was drowning, but I kept telling myself that I wanted to stay alive.”

It wasn’t until the day she told her husband her need to be in public to prevent spontaneous tears that she realized something had to change. She made her first psychiatrist appointment and on September 1st, 2021 Amanda finally got the answers she was looking for. She remembers sitting in the office, begging internally for something to be wrong with her that was more than depression and anxiety. She felt like she was making it all up for attention, even though what she was going through was nearly paralyzing her.

Amanda was finally diagnosed with not two but five mental health conditions and for once in her life she felt a sense of calm and relief. Her diagnoses included Bipolar 2, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress. She sat there in tears, half because she was thankful for the answers but half because she was immediately fearful of the harsh stigmas that came with Bipolar and Post Traumatic Stress.

Looking back on her life, all the signs were there. The extreme highs of manic episodes and the paralyzing lows of depressive episodes where brushing her teeth felt like a chore. After the diagnoses, Amanda felt clarity, but also a sense of urgency. She remembers “I sat in my therapist’s office right after that psychiatrist appointment and couldn’t contain my tears. I barely could express my fears of becoming an unhealthy bipolar person like the media stereotypes. My therapist stopped me and said words that I will forever cling to: YOU are a healthy bipolar person. YOU sought answers. YOU advocated for your body when your doctor wasn’t listening. YOU are on your meds. YOU are healthy.”

Amanda’s therapist had her look back on her life to recognize that everything she accomplished in 29 years was all while she had been sick battling her mind. This gave Amanda much rekindled hope.

Amanda’s personal mission is to help eliminate the stigma of brain illnesses by educating people on what depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress and bipolar actually are. She starts important conversations on her social media platforms and podcast by encouraging others to speak up and seek help. Amanda is a firm believer that her brain health conditions and her unique voice are her superpowers. The ability to feel in extremes gives her empathy not everyone has – allowing her to continue helping others find their voice.

Each day, Amanda shows up for the community she’s built online and in-person to inspire everyone that their setbacks could in fact become setUPs for something even better.

It has been FAR from the picture-perfect life she thought she had planned, but Amanda has come to own that the worst moments in her life launched her into a new and honorable dream. She shares, “I never want someone to feel as alone and low as I did before my diagnosis, so I’m going to continue using my voice to impact others.”

You can find Amanda Young online by visiting her website:, subscribing to her mental health podcast: Sunshine + Rainbows or by following her social media accounts: @that_manda_girl