Over the years, I’ve been learning how to talk about my own mental health struggles. When I was younger, in high school, I ignored them. I figured I was just being weird or a perfectionist and that there was nothing I or anyone could do. Back then, it seemed as though I just had some mild anxiety with a touch of depression. Most of which was self-diagnosed based on google searches of how I felt. A 15 year old shouldn’t be that sad all of the time right? But there was more to it. I was bullied and often felt alone. I saw graduating and going to college as my only way out and therefore everything in school had to be done perfect or as close to it as possible.
As I got older, this got worse and grew. Just before I graduated from high school and right after, both of my grandmothers passed away. I was incredibly close to both of them but, as always, I pushed down how I was feeling. I was then going through a massive change in my life as I moved away from home to live with a stranger in college. It was in that first year where I really started to think that there was definitely something not quite right. Especially as I found myself quickly shrinking away and making sure that I was alone. I was anxious, depressed, and more alone than ever despite having a few friends. I didn’t do anything about it despite my mom telling me to talk with someone at health services. I don’t like being a burden, even to healthcare professionals.
By the time I was getting ready to graduate college, I was still hiding the extent of what I was feeling from the majority of people. I vaguely have a memory of trying to talk about it to my then-boyfriend and being told it was all nothing and people have it much worse off than I do. Senior year turned into a mental health nightmare for me as the stress of my final year of college melded with my anxiety and depression and lead to me almost dropping out. I was having daily panic attacks, crying when I could finally be alone, and was in the darkest place I had ever been. My mom had cancer, I was trying to do well in school for her since my brother was crashing and burning, and I was taking on way more than I could truly handle.
Yet I still didn’t get help.
In the two years since I graduated, things have changed and I’ve tried to take notice of my mental health much more. All of my friends have had their struggles and, for the most part, have sought help and received it. We talk. There is more support for each other when we’re open. I’ve been encouraged to finally do something about what’s wrong in my mind.
I finally got help.
My first step into taking care of and trying to understand my mental health was finally talking to my doctor. I explained the anxiety most of all since that seems to trigger everything else. When I can’t sort through my racing thoughts, they tend to bottleneck in my mind and then it’s like everything starts to overflow. I get jittery. I can’t focus as well. I freeze. I explained all of this and even then tried to brush it off.
“It’s silly and I know that.”
“No. It isn’t. Don’t think that this is silly.”
My doctor set me straight and explained that nearly one in seven Americans go through this. He explained why feeling alone is somewhat of our own doing because no one talks to each other about their mental health. Everything he said was comforting and he let me talk through everything I was feeling. And I, for the first time it felt like, was honest in every description. I didn’t choke it down and make it seem like it was nothing. I gave a voice to my struggles.
My second step is trying an anti-anxiety medication that is supposed to help re-balance things like serotonin in your brain. I’m not usually one to want to try medications to solve things but I figured that it was worth it. It isn’t like I have to stay on it.
So that’s where I am right now.
Along with actually talking to a professional and the medication, I’m trying to journal more and track my moods. I’m writing more. I’m trying to sort through why I feel a certain way and what triggered that feeling. I’m taking the steps that I should have taken a while ago.