I’m actually really excited about this post because I think it will bring me a lot of healing and hopefully give someone else something that they needed in their life. I’m not a mental health expert. Let’s make that clear. But I’ve struggled with mental health for a long time. I kept my struggles quiet while I was growing up because no one talked about mental health like people are today. It wasn’t something people talked about at all. There were always other excuses when it came to depression and anxiety. As I’ve come to understand my mental health and working through it, I realized that my journey could have been started earlier. I wish it had but I can’t change the past. So now, I’m at a point in my life where I realize that I could help others. I want to help others. My impact may be small but it’s not a responsibility I take lightly. So here are the things I wish someone had told me when I was growing up with mental health disorders.
- You are not alone. Period. You are not the only person who is feeling this way. It seems like this is so obvious but when you are a kid, you feel like no one could ever understand you. No one feels the way like you do. I didn’t know anyone who was public about being depressed. I didn’t understand what I was feeling and no one ever said they felt similarly to myself. Except, they were. I’ve learned later on in life that many people around me, including close friends, were struggling with depression and other mental health issues. If I had known that someone else was going through what I was, I wouldn’t feel as alone and helpless. I could talk to someone about my feelings and be there to support others.
- It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to cry and to feel. Nothing is wrong with you. For as long as I could remember, I felt like I was broken because of my depression and anxiety. I felt like there was something wrong with me. Any time my depression started to come into my public life, people would make excuses. I was asking for attention. I was being overdramatic. Your life is so great, why be sad? I didn’t know exactly why I was feeling the way I was and I began to be ashamed of it. Like my feelings weren’t real and I had to just ignore it. If there is one thing I want to tell people about mental illness, it’s that your feelings are valid. There isn’t always a simple explanation about why but it’s real and it’s okay. Now, when people ask me why I am the way I am, I tell them that my mind and brain just work a little differently than others. It’s not wrong. It’s just different and I’ve learned how to do it my way. Managing mental health issues is difficult and tiring but it’s worth it because your feelings are real and valid.
- Sometimes you need to ask for help. I hid my depression for over 3 years. I suffered in silence because I didn’t want people to know. I wanted to fight this by myself. I struggled with my anxiety and its additional problems for 6 months by myself until it almost took me out. Again, it comes back to the shame and stigma that has been given to mental health. It wasn’t okay to be struggling with this and you don’t want to be the one who admits it. I know I didn’t. I didn’t want to appear weak and ungrateful for the life I was given. It was hard but I knew that if I didn’t reach out for help, I would get myself to a place that I wasn’t sure I could get out of. Even after I began to tell people, I still tried to figure it out myself. I dealt with my depression starting in middle school and didn’t get professional help until my sophomore year in college. For YEARS, I tried to pretend that I could do this. I just had to push through until it got better. But sometimes, it’s not that easy. It took professional help and work to get to where I am. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t recognize the pain and struggle I had to deal with on top of balancing my hormones. I had feelings and thoughts that I believed were so real even though there was no basis. Basically, I had to rewire how I thought of myself and the world around me. My journey is far from over but without help from others, I wouldn’t be in a place where I could even begin healing.
- Get ready for a long journey. This is the realest thing I’m gonna say. Managing life with a mental health disorder is a life long process. It’s not something you can fix in a month or so. It’s full of ups and downs and changes and so much more. When I first recognized that I was dealing with depression, I never thought I would still be working through this 10 years later. But I am and I’m not done. For myself, this will be a lifelong journey I take. I’m always going to be working on myself to keep myself healthy in all senses of the word. It’s long and hard but absolutely worth it.
If you are struggling in silence with mental health disorders, I hope that my small pieces of advice can provide you a moment of peace. An understanding that you are not alone and people are out there willing to help.