As much as I'd like to believe that healing happens overnight, it doesn't. No amount of praying or hoping or wishing will fix all of your problems in one day or even a week, for that matter. It's time for people to understand that healing, both mental and physical, can take a lot of time. I've heard the argument "people treat mental illness different than a physical ailment because they can't actually see mental illness" and it's true. You wouldn't look at someone with a broken leg walking on crutches and tell them "just shake it off buddy, get some sleep and you'll feel better in the morning". So why, in today's society, is it still acceptable to tell someone struggling with depression to "just shake it off, you'll get over it... things can't possibly be that bad!!!" Well, the thing is that's actually not okay at all.

Every single person struggling with any form of mental illness (whether it be an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, or anything else that might not always be physically visible) deals with their illness (as well as their healing process) differently. It is unfair for anyone to assume that they know what's best for another person and even more unfair to try and downplay what someone else is going through by telling them "it's not that bad". Just stop. It's not a contest to see "oh, woe is me! my problems are so much worse than yours". It's not a cry for attention. Mental illness is real. Trying to recover from a backslide is hard to do and even harder to do when you have people constantly trying to invalidate how you feel.

It's time to end the stigma associated with mental illness. Not every depressed girl desires to be "saved by the man of her dreams" like the damsel in distress of some cheesy teen romance novel. Struggling with anxiety doesn't simply mean every single person is afraid to speak in front of a room of people (while this obviously does still occur for some people). Anxiety manifests itself in many different forms and it's not as simple as just being afraid of public speaking. For some people, anxiety can be crippling and make it difficult to even order food in a public place. If you personally struggle with this form of anxiety, you might see ordering food for yourself at Taco Bell as an accomplishment... and you should, good for you! It's not fair for anyone to try and tell you that your experience is unimportant. We all track our own progress and growth in different ways, and that's completely fine. The human experience in general is different for every single one of us, as is how we deal with our own illnesses (in any form).

Healing, whether it be from something physical or mental or even both, is not an easy 1-2-3 step system that automatically leads to 100% operating efficiency in your life. True healing is not linear. People who suffer with depression don't just wake up one day and decide "hey I suddenly don't feel like I want to die anymore!!!". Happiness is never a choice. It's not a daily decision (even though a lot of people think of it that way). Healing can take weeks or months or even years and it can have backslides along the way. You can't expect everything in your life to be perfect at every single moment because things happen (beyond your control) to disrupt the flow all the time. It's important to remember to take things one day at a time because you never know what tomorrow may bring. When you have a really strong uphill flow going for yourself on your healing journey, it can be really discouraging when you backslide. Please remember that this happens to everyone and you shouldn't let it stop you from trying. You don't have to worry about making mistakes and you don't have to worry about disappointing anyone but yourself. Worry about what's best for you. Do things that you need to do for your own healing process and most importantly, NEVER apologize for the way you choose to heal. You don't owe ANYONE an explanation for what you do to better yourself.

For those of you fortunate enough to have solid mental health on your side, please make an effort to be more understanding. I know it can be difficult to understand something like depression if you've never experienced it yourself but just try and be more open-minded when interacting with those who are struggling with it (or any other form of illness, for that matter). After all, just because someone might seem put together on the outside they could be fighting through every day just to make it out alive. Looks can be very deceiving. You never really know what demons someone else might be struggling with inside their own head.

And for those of you who are struggling with any form of mental illness: always remember that things do get better. There were several times in my life when I thought I couldn't possibly sink any lower and I didn't see the point in trying to be better but then I remembered that it was up to me to make an effort to change the things in my life that were hurting me.

You have to do whatever you can to help yourself. Cut off toxic people, stand up for yourself, change your diet, get more rest, see a therapist, or even talk to your doctor about getting medication to help with your mental illness. The first step in the healing process is admitting to yourself that you want to start this journey.

Just remember this if you ever feel discouraged:

Healing begins within.

Progress is still progress, no matter how small.

Happiness is not a choice (and don't let anyone make you feel like it is).

And please, always remember that you're not alone on this journey. So many people are right there with you, fighting to get better every day. Plus, know that there is always someone out there who cares about you.

Just as a reminder, here's a list of people/organizations that can help you along the way during the dark times and backslides that might happen along your healing journey:

Family members that you trust

Close friends

Roommates

Venting to a pet (it seems silly but it always makes me feel better)

Therapist

Talking to a priest or other church member (if you're religious)

Teachers at school that you can trust

School guidance counselor

National Suicide Prevention Hotline (available 24/7):

1-800-273-8255

National Eating Disorder Hotline (NEDA) (available Monday - Thursday from 9 AM - 9 PM and Friday from 9 AM - 5 PM):

1-800-931-2237