I posted this on my personal FaceBook in 2017. My circumstances have changed much for the better since then, but a lot of people reached out to me after I posted this to let them know that my words helped them feel a little less alone. So, in light of recent events, here’s a post that isn’t exactly travel related but I hope that everyone and anyone who reads this can take something positive away from it.
*If you ever feel like life is becoming too much to handle or you need to talk to someone call 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.*
In 3 days it will have been 3 years since I graduated college. And honestly, the last three years have been some of the worst of my life.
For background, my freshman year of college I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder, which was due to both circumstance and a chemical imbalance in my brain. That year I found a suicide note left by one of my closest friends and had I not immediately reported it to our professors we have no idea what would have happened that day. A week later, I found another close friend convulsing in her bed after overdosing on pills. Today, I know there is nothing more I could have done to help and my direct involvement actually did help to save both of them. But as a 19-year old I didn’t see that, and all I thought about was what more I could have done or how I should have been better at reading the “signs” that they were contemplating suicide and it really messed me up.
As a psychology major, I’m well aware of the stigma surrounding mental illness and I know it’s BS. I also know there is nothing wrong with getting help from therapy or medication. But I still had my reservations, I chose to stop seeing my therapist, and I refused to get on an antidepressant when my doctor recommended it because I thought I could handle everything on my own.
FYI: I COULDN’T. I CAN’T. IT WAS FOOLISH OF ME TO HAVE THOUGHT I COULD. AND IT IS 100% ALRIGHT TO ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT.
As for the last couple years, I’ve been inexplicably anxious, depressed, unfulfilled, and miserable (obviously, some of this has to do with the fact my mom has a terminal illness and I live over a thousand miles away. But most of the emptiness has been there long before my mom’s cancer came back). I’ve wasted more weekends than I’d like to admit unable to leave my bed because I’ve had no energy for life. While I’ve had happy days and weeks they have been clouded with this awful feeling of dread and worry that I’ll never actually feel truly happy again, or be the girl I used to be, or accomplish anything I dreamed of for myself when I was younger. Even having my dream job, I’ve felt as if there is so much more I could be doing. And for too long I had let myself become pathetically complacent with zero motivation or desire to do anything more than the bare minimum. I was scaring myself. I hated who I was becoming and then about four months ago I hit my lowest of lows and I wanted it all to stop. So I watched my graduation speech, which was not nearly as good as my parents let me believe, and I was reminded that who I was being was not who I am; not who I’ve ever been. I assessed myself and made some changes.
I started seeing a therapist again. I stopped wearing makeup, which for me has been SO freeing because it’s helping me learn to love myself again – for a while I got caught in the mindset that the prettier and more put together I looked the more people would like me but I was really just killing my confidence and diminishing myself to the point that I let myself believe my looks were the only reason my bosses paid me any attention or guys wanted to talk to me. I started standing up for myself, personally and at work. I dropped negative people from my life and started surrounding myself with people who make me feel alive (so corny but also so true… sorry, not sorry). I’ve been getting more sleep. I started running again (I think my inability to run for almost two years had a HUGE impact on my mental health). I’ve been making a real effort (and succeeding) at going to Church more. I’ve started shifting my attitude to make the best of every moment; not just my weekends. I’ve been trying to stop dwelling so much on negative feelings and rather be thankful for the good. I’ve been working on letting go of things, which is really difficult because I’m definitely a forgive-but-never-forget kind of person. And I started being a little selfish – doing things I want to do and not doing the things I don’t, even if it upsets people. I’m not saying I’m “better” but since I started making these changes my overall happiness has improved. Where I used to coast at a maximum of 5/10 each day I can now honestly say I haven’t had a day less than 7 since around February.
I’m not sharing this to get sympathy, because I don’t want it or need it. But I’m finally at point where I feel comfortable sharing this with ~1,000 of my “closest friends” and hopefully talking about my own struggle can be the encouragement someone else might need to get help themself.
Depression isn’t something to be embarrassed about or ignored or repressed. Just like my ankles, it NEEDS to be treated. The mind needs to be cared for and people need to know that talking about mental illness is not taboo. And for anyone dealing with their own demons, I know it’s lonely and hard and consuming and it seems like it’s going to go on forever. But it doesn’t have to. But you do have to take action. Talk to someone. Find a prescription that works for you. Or find something that ignites the happy fire in your soul and follow it. Just don’t let the stigma surrounding mental illness stop you from finding happiness. Don’t be afraid to say yes and talk about what’s bothering you when someone asks if something’s wrong. Don’t be afraid to say no to people who aren’t good for you. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I started taking Lexapro, an antidepressant, which in addition to all the other changes I’ve made in my life has helped turn my life around. I still have my bad days but I’ve been able to experience some 10/10 days – which even with seeing a therapist and exercising and all the other changes I made I never had. And even though I felt so at first, taking medicine to help your mind is NOT weak. No matter how you look at it, doing what’s best for you and your life is STRONG and EMPOWERING.
I’ve never felt weak or embarrassed for needing anti-inflammatories or pain killers or days off for my ankles to heal, so why should we feel that way if we need medicine or days off for our minds?
2 thoughts on “Mental Illness: End the Stigma”
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