May is mental health awareness month. I decided to share why I opened up about my mental health struggles. So here’s the reason. The entire story of my mental health shame and guilt. A story that is far too often for others.
During my freshman year of high school, I began to feel down. It became so much more than just feeling tired. I dreaded waking up in the morning and as soon as I got home I went straight to my bed. Constantly, I felt tired and alone, yet I never slept. What I didn’t know is that if I searched my feelings on the internet almost every result would be an article talking about depression.
There was so much good going on in my life that my feelings didn’t seem justified. I felt as if there was no reason to be unproductive, tired, and what I described as lazy. None of what was happening was ever intentional, yet I couldn’t get myself to leave my bed.
By the time I was a junior, things were hard. I didn’t have an interest in seeing my friends, the stress of the future and college was too much to handle. This was the first time I went to the doctor to try to see if medication would be an option. Therapy had only helped me so much and I didn’t remember a time where I felt “normal”. My first appointment they brushed me off and a doctor recommended art therapy. I felt defeated.
Before depression was even a thing I always had anxiety. Throughout middle school and high school, I had to leave class, go to a bathroom stall, and try to power through a panic attack. I thought everyone was that anxious all the time. My only thought was how to pretend to be better like everyone else acted. How should I pretend to act as if there aren’t a million thoughts going at once?
At some point I had all of these feelings I had been hiding for so long, I was emotionally drained. Randomly someone would share their mental health struggles and I would tell them my story. I have always tried to make it positive and think about the better days ahead. That’s what people wanted to hear. Not the “just stop stressing” or “just get out of bed”, but the acknowledgment that what they are feeling is real and valid.
I never thought my feelings were valid. After being diagnosed with depression and anxiety it just made sense for me to hide it. There didn’t seem to be a point in letting others know and I didn’t want to seem like I was looking for attention.
Going to college made me feel that I was good enough. It was as if overnight I felt accomplished and every part of me was valid. I had entered my freshman year as an intelligence analysis major. My thought was that to be successful enough I had to work for a three-letter agency and deal with hard confidential information. By working in D.C. and becoming a strong leader everything in my life would have been worth it. This all went away after I read some information on a foreign country and the new weapons they had received. If non-confidential information made me have a panic attack, I don’t even want to think about what would happen if I continued down that path.
The hardest decision was for me to accept my strengths and change to a writing degree. Writing gave me an escape from depression and anxious thoughts. I could create something and be proud of it regardless if I shared it with the world. There’s this negative stigma around being a writing major, people told me I wouldn’t be successful. That yet again, made me feel not important. So, I became determined to show everyone that I was good at writing and then I decided to make an online portfolio.
One of my first posts was about mental health. Then, as I continued to write it became almost all mental health-related. People started to reach out and let me know they enjoyed my content. I didn’t even know people were reading. Finally, I decided that I had to go all-in so that maybe others will learn that whatever they deal with is 100% okay.
It’s been hard to share everything I fear as the worst parts of me to the world. Slowly I am becoming more comfortable and trying to become more vulnerable. The world needs to know that whatever makes up their identity is valid. Each person is unique in their own way and all parts of you should be accepted.
My journey started a long time ago, but every feeling of helplessness has gotten me here. I wouldn’t trade any of those bad days for anything. This is what I am meant to be doing, fighting against the stigma around mental health.