With the new year beginning just a few days ago, I’m trying to keep up with reading Demi Lovato’s book, “Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year.” It’s only a few days in, but I’m going to try. Today’s page related to reaching out to others, to help others, as Demi did in publicly discussing her struggles with issues such as self-harm, in the hope that by discussing these struggles, others who are dealing with them may be more likely to seek help or be willing to talk about their own issues. It is in this vein of thought that I decided today to sit down and write about my own experience with mental health, depression, stress, social anxiety and other issues, in the hope that maybe even just one person will read my story and be a little less afraid to seek the help they may need. I know that other people have it worse than I do; I know I have a lot to be thankful for, and my struggles have definitely taught me a lot. I never struggled with self-harm, but depression was something that plagued me for a long time. But depression doesn’t mean you always have a dark cloud over your head; sometimes it gets a little lighter and you think things are going better, until they aren’t anymore – at least, that’s what it was for me.
Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a stigma associated with mental illness. And quite frankly, having a mental illness can be embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to be unable to complete a seemingly simple task and to have to tell someone “I’m sorry, my mind was in a very bad place today and I just couldn’t handle it without breaking down.” It’s embarrassing to leave a job because of your mental or emotional state, perhaps unrelated to the job completely. So we come up with excuses, other things to tell people, lies to cover our issues and ways to get around the things that we may be struggling with. There’s also the issues that these words are thrown around so carelessly nowadays; people have one bad day and immediately say things like “Ugh, I’m depressed.” But depression is a serious issue, recurring over time and it’s not something to be taken lightly.
But none of this helps; it doesn’t address the issues, it doesn’t bring them out into the open and it further envelopes things in this stigma where many people associate mental illness with being weak, sickly, childish, etc. or allowing people to think of mental illness as something that can just be swept under the rug to be dealt with when it’s convenient. Mental illness is never convenient, but it’s something we as individuals, as communities, as a society, must deal with. Now.
This is my story, and I hope you’ll join me along the way. Though my struggles are not over – and perhaps depression and anxiety are things that I may deal with in some way every day for the rest of my life – I feel more positive, more able to cope and ready to share my story in the hope that it may help even one person somewhere in the world.