Today’s piece is written by the queen of social media herself, Christine. In case you don’t already know her, now you do. Like, I’m pretty sure she’s friends with Kris Jenner at this point, casual I know.
It’s hard to explain Christine in words because, like she says herself, she wears her emotions on her sleeve (and I mean that in the best way). I am never not hysterically laughing when I am with her. Her smile and cackle literally fill up a whole room. She genuinely instills happiness and positivity in everyone she meets.
I’ve known that side of Christine for years now, but this may be one of the first times I’ve ever reached out to her about her deeper struggles.
Thank god I did. Christine’s insight into the stigma surrounding mental health is so powerful. I am so happy she agreed to share, because her words had such an impact on me and I know they will have an impact on all of you too.
Check it out:
If you know me, or if you’ve even just met me once, you know that I am a very outgoing and sociable person. I tend to not hold back my feelings when it comes to expressing myself. When I think something is funny, I cackle. When I’m happy for one of my friends, I cry tears of joy. When I watch video compilations of dogs reuniting with their owners, I sob uncontrollably. I would say that I pretty much wear my emotions on my sleeve. What is usually surprising to people is that I struggle with anxiety and depression.
I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder when I was in 6th grade. I couldn’t go to class most of the time because I was too scared that if I was away from my family, something bad would happen. I would make my parents turn off the news in the mornings because that was an instant trigger. I spent the majority of that year in the guidance counselor’s office, where classmates delivered my schoolwork and asked what was wrong with me. My parents tried to get me professional help, but I refused. I was so embarrassed to even say the word therapy out loud. I grew up with the horrible stigma that surrounds mental health so ingrained in my mind by society, that I was too ashamed to even think that I could possibly need help. I spent the next few years trying my best to hide this anxiety, while simultaneously leading a normal high school life.
I went off to college, still refusing any sort of therapy, just thinking things would fix themselves. Of course, I was wrong. I became obsessed with the fact that there must be something wrong with me. A reason why I wasn’t like everyone else. I developed a severe lack of confidence in myself and couldn’t even look in the mirror most days. I soon learned that anxiety and depression do not just disappear. They are not “fake illnesses” or “made up by someone who wants attention” – both phrases coined by society. They are extremely visceral and that’s something I have come to terms with over the years.
Fortunately, I was able to get help during my freshman year of college. While I was home for winter break I went to therapy and saw a psychiatrist, and was then put on medication for anxiety and depression. This is something that took me almost eight years to act upon. Something I pushed off time and time again, panic attack after panic attack, because I couldn’t bear the fact that I would have to utter the words “I need help.”
At this point in my life, it’s still difficult for me to talk about out loud. Writing this is a little difficult, actually. Most people hear the word anxiety and think “Oh, they must be afraid of everything” and the word depression is usually followed by the question, “You’ve tried killing yourself?” It needs to be understood that this is not a black and white diagnosis. Yes, sometimes I’m scared. Yes, sometimes I think that people’s lives would be better without me here. Sometimes I lie in bed for hours thinking about everything that society says is wrong with me until I finally get tired enough and fall asleep. I still spend some mornings looking in the mirror pointing out all the things that could be better. I’ve spent these years at war with myself, and I know the only way things will get better is if we open up the conversation. The conversation that no one wants to have is consequently the conversation that is necessary for our well-being.
Think about your close group of friends; at least one of them suffers from anxiety or depression. Think about your coworkers, your teammates, your classmates. Close to 40 million Americans suffer every day. Luckily, both anxiety and depression are manageable. We have the medication, we have the therapy, and we have the technology. So, you ask, why are so many people still suffering then? It’s the stigma that surrounds this matter which causes so many people to shy away from the fact that they may have a mental illness. It’s our responsibility to start the conversation and break down the barriers that cause so many people to devalue themselves. Whoever you are – you are so valued, and you are so loved.