MHAM Post #19: A Great Friend

Today is officially the last day of May… wow. This month and this project have flown by! I’m not entirely sure if today will be the definitive end point of my Mental Health Awareness Month posts (also more to come about an upcoming project soon), but I did save this post for the “last day” for a reason. 

This piece is written by a good friend of mine who chooses to be anonymous (~corporate jobs ya know~). Like I’ve said before though, I think each of these posts has so much weight, regardless of whether or not they have a specific name attached. 

This month has been all about speaking up, sharing your unique experiences, and feeling more understood in the process. I love this post because it encompasses just that. 

The writer shares her journey with her mental health and how she found her voice over time. I really feel that her struggles and her silence are so perfectly described in a way that we call all identify with, and her end points help to bring it all full circle.

Here it isssssssssssssss:

“I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.” ― David Benioff, City of Thieves

As the pressure of performing well in college dug its way into my psyche, I began to sleep less and less. For three years, I managed. All-nighters are not unusual in college to cram for an exam or essay, and I could always reset my system once whatever was keeping me up was over. I never recognized it as an actual issue, and often fed my undiagnosed insomnia with cups of coffee and giant red bulls. I’d crash, sleep, and repeat.

But something changed senior year. Everything felt chaotic. After going abroad my spring semester junior year, I felt displaced amongst my friends and overwhelmed with what exactly I was going to do beyond the safe and secure bubble of a college town. I didn’t get either of the first two jobs I applied to, and the fear of failure was crushing me. Sleepless nights turned into sleepless weeks, and I couldn’t verbalize what was happening to me. No one wants to be sick their last semester senior year, but I was. Chronic insomnia is what they call a “co-morbid” condition (sounds a little dramatic, TBH), and often sits beside it’s ugly stepsisters, Anxiety and Depression. Pair that with a thyroid imbalance and a looming feeling of uncertainty, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I wouldn’t have gotten help on my own. I didn’t recognize any of my thoughts as harmful, or my actions as out of character, but my wonderful friends did. I am lucky to have had friends that recognized I was not okay, even when I couldn’t admit that to myself.

The most ironic thing about my experience, is that one of my majors was Communication Studies in college. You would think as a proficient writer who was enrolled in interpersonal communications and leadership classes – that focused on how to bridge gaps between different groups and personalities –  I would have these skills to tackle the crushing fear of failure. I studied the autism spectrum and learned how to communicate effectively with people that are seen as “other” and “different,” yet, when I felt like an outsider, I lost my voice. I couldn’t speak. The stigma crushed me. I was a happy-go-lucky senior, a fairly good student and super involved my college community. My friends know me as a loud, outgoing person. Yet when I had these sudden fears of not fitting in, or not getting a job that I pulled three back to back all-nighters to apply for, I lost my ability to articulate my feelings.

As illustrated through this blog, mental health is a tricky subject. We all have different coping mechanisms and ways out of the dark, and there’s no “one size fits all” solution. When I sat down to write this, I struggled for a while to articulate what truly happened to me senior year. I still struggle with insomnia, but feel very far removed from the way I felt three years ago. But if I learned anything from my experience, it’s that the stigma around mental health issues is pointless. I am glad that this blog gives us all a chance to air it out.

If you take anything from this post and this month, I want it to be those last two lines. The stigma IS (for lack of a better synonym lol) pointless. We are all just human. We all have good days and bad. We all have our struggles. By sharing what we’re going through, we can remind each other, and ourselves, that we are so far from alone. 

Also, check out this writer on Tumblr here: @todayitwasalltheearth (it’s filled with awesome poems/words/art!!)

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