An Open Letter to Those Struggling With Mental Health
Recently, the media has spotlighted the topic of mental health, as it should be understood, as a HEALTH issue. In some respects, however, mental health is still quite stigmatized and even a taboo topic. This notion is utterly and completely wrong. Talking to others and reaching out to those who have opened their arms to help should not be regarded as something about which to be ashamed. Problems relating to undiagnosed or ignored mental health issues have affected a cross section of people in the modern world for decades. Thankfully, there is now movement across cultures establishing a suitable way of talking about and educating others as to the struggles those with mental health concerns face daily. Therefore, as we move from stigmatization to acceptance in talking about our own mental health, I encourage others who may be afraid to speak about their struggles relating to mental health, as I was, to take the first step to educate others.
The time has come for me to talk about mental health without being ashamed or embarrassed. Most people know me as someone with a loud voice and a constant smile on my face. What those people do not know is that I struggle with my mental health. I lived with my depression and anxiety without accepting or truly acknowledging it. When first diagnosed, I believed I was somehow defective and that I must have done something wrong along the way. I felt as if there were weights chained to my ankles as I was running this marathon called Life. Due to the weights, I watched others run by me with ease as I tried my best to keep up. Keeping up, as one could imagine, was exhausting. My depression and anxiety are not perpetual sadness and neurosis, nor is it what television commonly portrays. Mental health is not stagnant or set in stone, but rather differs from person to person. That being said, it is a roller coaster that that can jerk me around at a moment’s notice. Therefore, I hid my struggles from those around me in fear that they would see and treat me differently. Now, after reaching out to others in order to receive support, my view on mental illness has changed immensely.
Here is what I have learned. The cruellest thing about depression and the accompanied anxiety is that it doesn’t care whether your life is full of love and happiness. It still comes, attempting to darken your days. I had believed that wanting to stay positive while in a depressed state sounded contradictory and, well, impossible, but it is not. There are still days when I must take a deep breath and put my mask on for those around me; as so many people do who suffer with mental illness. BUT, I have found that it is OKAY for me to have my bad days, and more so, it is okay for me to revel in my good ones. And, although the weights around my ankles remain, I no longer carry them alone. During this Mental Health Awareness Week, help others in need, and most importantly, help yourself!
Someone still fighting, but still strong