As someone who’s been struggling with both anxiety and depression for years, it saddens me when people look down on those with mental illnesses. They think us “weak” and tell us to “get over it” – if only it were that simple! It’s time this stigma around mental health was eradicated, because it’s ridiculous and it discourages people from opening up about their problems.
And opening up is exactly what you need to do. When I thought I might have anxiety, the first thing I did was put it on the internet. I continued writing about my journey with these malignant companions. Guess what happened? People reached out to me. With their own problems and their own stories and their own solutions. Talking about it with people who were further down the line helped me to get a sense of things as an “anxiety noob”.
I read books about anxiety and what it entailed and how to deal with it. I searched for hours online on how to calm my anxiety. But those conversations with my friends inspired me the most; they convinced me to pick up the courage and seek professional help. This is a huge step and one to be taken seriously. There is nothing more courageous than someone speaking up after being silent and going, “Hey so I think I have a problem and I could use some help”. You are incredibly brave for admitting you have a problem. Go you.
I was pretty much at rock bottom by this point: I’ve been house bound for 1,5 years; I haven’t seen my friends in just as long; and things like the news or the idea of getting out of the house triggered debilitating panic attacks. And people who go through this stuff are not weak – they are strong. Stronger than you know. Because they fight against their minds every day and that’s incredible.
Therapy helped me rebuild that bridge that had crumbled down around me; with the help of antidepressants, heart-to-heart conversations, relaxation techniques, and exposure therapy exercises, I’m slowly making my way across that bridge and up the hill. I’m nowhere near “better” or “cured” or whatever you want to call it, but therapy has made a world of difference for me in just four months’ time. And because I talked to those ahead of me, I sought help a lot quicker than I would’ve done if I hadn’t reached out.
Opening up about my mental illness on the internet has not just instigated conversation with “veterans” (for lack of a better term, but I kind of like it), but it’s also encouraged people to come to me and voice their thoughts for the very first time:
- “I think I might have anxiety/depression”
- “I’ve never said this to anyone before but it’s such a relief to get this off my chest”
- “I thought I was alone”
- “Thank you for listening, I just needed someone to listen”
- “You have inspired me”
And that makes everything so incredibly worth it.
So if you’re reading this and you think you may be suffering from a mental illness: talk to someone. Talk to your family, your friends, your doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Mental illness is difficult to understand for people who haven’t gone through it, but those who love you will do their best to support you in every way they can.
Most importantly: you are not alone. And you are not weak.