Although I’ll probably post this tomorrow (aka Tuesday when
you’re most likely reading it), today is World Mental Health Day. Coincidentally,
when I was falling asleep last night I was reflecting on the changes in my
mental health recently. So what better time to write about it than today!!
Let me start by saying, today I tweeted about how important
I think it is to try to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness. I said
something along the lines of “seeking treatment/medication literally changed my
life this year and it can change yours too”. First off, I’m going to elaborate on
this concept later in this post but, I want to touch on the fact that I don’t
really think therapy/medication is a cure-all. I also don’t think it is an
immediate fix, nor do I think it works for everyone. I also mildly exaggerated the
fact that it “changed my life” to emphasize the points I was making on Twitter.
I think every day is different and every person struggles/copes with mental
illness differently. For me, I have good days and I have bad days. But the major
point I wanted to make via Twitter was that if you are struggling or think you
might be struggling with anything related to your mental health, you should
speak up and seek help! I can say from experience that not saying anything is guaranteed
to make the problem worse in the long run. Two-thirds of people struggling don’t
do anything!! That is CRAZY to think about. But also, I was that person for so
long! So my tweets were more geared towards those people that are silently
trying to cope and have yet to ask for any help.
So I have been taking medication for my anxiety/depression
for a few months now. At first, like I said before, I was pretty hesitant to
try it. And in the beginning, it had little to no positive effects for me. But
last night, as I was falling asleep, I was thinking about the past couple
months since I started taking my medication. I have still cried, still felt
anxious, still felt alone, and still felt helpless, yes. But
How many times have a thought about killing
myself? Drastically less than before!
How many times have I felt so empty that I didn’t
think I needed to be here anymore? Not as many as pre-medication!
How often have I felt motived and genuinely excited
to see friends? So many more times than before!
How often have I felt more optimistic about my
life and future? Waaaay more than I had in the recent past!
I know I am still
early in the medication process, but I’m grateful to be in a better place now
than I used to be.
I can’t really pinpoint the first few times I realized I was
struggling with anxiety or depression. In a lot of senses, it was just always
part of me. I was always a very anxious, worried, self-conscious kid. I think
my anxiety only really started to become an issue when my depression came into
the picture. I have always felt emotions very strongly, but I think my depression
started to creep in during college. In high school, yes I felt overwhelmingly
sad sometimes, but I could always draw a connection as to why I was feeling
that way. In college, it wasn’t that simple. Over the past 5 or so years, I
just began to feel progressively darker. I started feeling uncontrollably
helpless once a year, then once a month, then maybe every other week or so,
until recently, it became constant. I used to think about killing myself only
when I drank. By the time I started taking my medication, I was thinking about
it soberly all the time.
Don’t let that scare you. I wasn’t planning my suicide, I
just felt so useless and empty that I couldn’t understand how I’d ever feel any
differently again. Depression can become this black hole that just sucks you
in, making you believe that there can’t possibly be a future filled with
anything other than emptiness and loneliness. I didn’t want to speak up about
these dark feelings I was having, partially because I didn’t think people would
understand, and partially because I feared that they would overreact. How do
you tell your friend or your parent that you think about how you shouldn’t be
alive? How do you explain to them that you feel miserable but can’t even
articulate why? How do you let someone in during those low moments, without
completely terrifying them?
I don’t really think I’ve ever explained the depths of these
feelings to very many of my friends. I did however, finally open up to my mom
earlier this year. I am so thankful for gaining the strength/energy/courage to
talk to her, because with her help, I’ve found a therapist and physiatrist that
truly have my best interests at heart.
I may deal with these depressed feelings and anxious
thoughts for the rest of my life. I may feel empty and alone on and off until
the day I die. I don’t know! Even if that’s true, at least I am seeking help.
At least I am consciously trying to make things better. That’s really my point
in all this! Seeking help for a mental illness is never an immediate fix. It’s
not like a broken bone that just needs some time to heal. It is a long process,
but having people to talk to, and coping mechanisms to rely on, is always
better than trying to fight the problem alone.
A lot of brilliantly amazing and talented people struggle
with their mental health. One in four adults are struggling right now!! That’s a
quarter of us! That’s like 450 million Americans (I think? If the stat I read
is right? Aka uhhh don’t quote me on that .. ha)! But that is a crazy amount of
people! Reach out to other people like you. Share your feelings and your story.
And even if you’re not struggling, offer an ear to listen or
a shoulder to lean on. You may not be able to completely understand what
someone is going through, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still sympathize with
them. When I’m at my lowest, all I want is someone to physically be with me!
Try to figure out little ways like that to show someone who’s going through a
hard time that you’re still there.
To those people afraid to open up about how they’re feeling,
my best advice to you is that most people will surprise you. Before I could be
honest about my mental health to anyone, I assumed very few of my friends had
ever struggled with anything similar. You have no idea how many people feel
just like you until you find the guts to open up. And you may also find a lot of
friends who care enough to listen, even if they haven’t been through something
similar. Sometimes it just takes seeing someone struggling first hand to be
able to sympathize.
SOoOoOOooOoO the moral of MY World Mental Health Day issssss,
today was a good day! And recently I’ve had more good days than bad! Who’s to
say what tomorrow will be like, but for today, this is enough.