My Mental Health Story

I Fought My Mental Health Battle By Allowing My Struggles To Be Valid

When I was a freshman in high school, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

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October 10 celebrated World Mental Health Day. It warmed my heart to see people I follow on social media open up about their struggles with mental health, including anxiety and depression. The truth is though, that I had no idea. We see their smiling faces in the pictures they choose to post, but we don't see what's behind the smile, we don't see what's inside.

These people talked not only about what they have gone and are going through, but they also offered support to others struggling, as well as helpful tips on how to battle the war that many of us face in our heads. This vulnerable honesty allows people who don't struggle with their mental health to better understand the difficulties faced by those who do.

I opened up on my Twitter about how I was personally affected by my problems with mental health. Doing so made me want to open up a little more, so I decided to write about it in this week's article.

The truth is, you don't see what I'm going through. You may see what I'm wearing, the vacations I go on, my filtered Instagram, or my good grades, and you might think--wow, she has it all together, she's doing great! You may hear me talk about how I am struggling, and then wonder why I have anything to struggle about. Well, that's because I only let show what I want to be seen.

If I posted about tearing my ACL, I would get flooded with messages of well-wishes like "hope you feel better soon," and "let me know if there's anything I can do!" If I was puking all morning, I wouldn't be scrutinized for staying home.

Now if I posted about being so depressed that I couldn't get out of bed, there would be silence. There would be whispers of "she has nothing to be upset about, she's just staying home because she can, she's just saying that for attention," and so on. No well-wishes, no support, and lots of judgment. We need to start allowing people's mental struggles to be valid, and we need to treat mental health issues the same way we treat physical issues.

For a brief medical summary: Depression affects millions of people in the United States every year. Those affected may turn to drugs, alcohol, self-harm, or suicide. Treatments for depression include antidepressant medication and different forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy. Depression can lead to a lack of sleep, a change in appetite, and decreased energy levels, as well as anger, irritability, and low self-esteem.

Depression is not sadness and it is not a feeling. It consumes you and darkens every aspect of your life. Like a dark cloud following you around all day, it's always there, ready to send a torrential rain throughout your whole head, and some days it feels like you can't breathe. It is not a choice.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Throughout the four years of high school, there were actually times when I couldn't get out of bed for two to three days straight. There were nights when I couldn't turn off my head, and I felt like I couldn't breathe because my thoughts went too deep.

I eventually began seeing a therapist, who recommended antidepressants. I decided against taking any because I believed that there were alternative ways to treat depression in my case. Looking back, there were many environmental factors which were toxic to my mental health, but I was unable to avoid them until I came to college. I eventually found solace in exercise. I was amazed at how my thoughts and mood improved simply by going to the gym and working out or going for a run.

In the movie, "Legally Blonde," Reese Witherspoon's character, Elle Woods, says: "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." It is proven that exercising does release endorphins, as well as increase blood flow to the brain and release neurotransmitters, like serotonin. Exercise did not directly lessen my anxiety, but it did provide an outlet for releasing it and morphing it into something more controllable and tolerable.

In addition to exercise, I found other self-help mechanisms:

Writing down exactly what I'm feeling and why I am feeling that way. Often seeing what I'm thinking on paper helps make my thoughts seem valid and more clear.

Staying home, getting a coffee, deep breathing, etc. Whatever you need to do to give yourself a break, do it. Just like your body needs sleep for fuel for the day, your head needs a break in order to fuel up as well.

Eating less unhealthy food and drinking a lot of water. I'm not saying cut out bad food, but focus more on what you are putting into your body.

Listening to music or reading a good book. Many times other people are capable of putting your feelings into words when you can't do it yourself. Both are also a distraction from whatever is going on inside your head.

Talk about it without asking for advice, just find someone who can affirm that your current state of being is valid.

Being real honest, I cried while writing this article.

Not because I am sad, but because when I look back at who I used to be, I see a broken and helpless girl. When looking at myself now, I see a strong girl who can do anything. I worked hard in silence to overcome my battles and I could not be prouder of who I am today.

I am proud for not giving up, for bettering myself, for cutting out toxic habits, for leaving toxic environments and mostly for teaching myself how to live a life worth living. I learned that the only person who can save me when I'm drowning in myself, but when I know that when I make it back to shore I have people there who love me and support me.

If anyone ever needs someone to talk to, know that there is always someone there willing to help. You are not alone. You are not a burden. If someone, even yourself, doesn't know your worth, know that there are so many people who do. They see you, and they love you. Let them. You are loved. You are strong and important. You are good enough. You matter.

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10 Bible Verses for Self Esteem

Sometimes you need to search for inner strength and find your own self worth.
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We all get those days that we just don't feel good enough for anything. Everything is going wrong. For me, I go to the bible to read the words of God. His personal dialog for us is filled with encouragement, hope, and lessons we can learn from. Here are my top ten verses that are uplifting and impacting when at the lowest of lows:

1. Philippians 4:13:

I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.

2. Psalm 46:5

God is within her, she will not fall.

3. Proverbs 31:25

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

4. Psalm 28:76

The Lord is my strength and my shield.

5. 1 Corinthians 25:10

By the grace of God, I am what I am.

6. Romans 5:8

I loved you at your darkest.

7. Psalm 62:5-6

Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on Him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure.

8. 2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

9. 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10. 2 Chronicles 20:15

The battle is not ours, but God's.

Cover Image Credit: chinadaily

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8 Unconventional Ways To De-Stress We All Need

Moody isn't always the move.

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When the stress of finals hits a little too hard and Moody is no longer the move, I use these tricks as a way to stay positive and power through the semester!

1. Plan a Trip

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While it's not always financially feasible to travel all over the world, I've found that when I take 30-45 minutes to plan a 'bucket list' vacation, my stress levels almost always decrease. Granted, I'm a Type-A person so planning gives me extreme joy. I love to look up cheap flights on Google Flights for a date in the future and then plan a trip around it; I'll go onto TripAdvisor and find an ideal hotel, a list of things I want to do, and restaurants I want to eat at. Maybe the trip isn't happening YET, but who knows? At least you'll have it planned when you actually do get to visit that dream destination in the future!

2. Make a list of short-term and long-term goals

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Sometimes I need to feel like I'm being productive when I'm not actually being productive. A bit of an oxymoron, but nonetheless I love making both short term and long term to-do lists of sorts as a study break. This is super easy to do in those odd breaks in classes or even between studying for different classes! Just grab a piece of paper and write down what you want to get done for the rest of the day, week, year... The depth and extent of the list is truly up to you!

3. Online. Shopping.

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Online shopping is definitely a de-stress method for those that love fashion like me. So if you have to be dragged into the mall, this suggestion is probably not for you! I personally love visiting some of my favorite store websites (looking @ you Nordstrom) and looking at some of the new pieces and upcoming trends. Being able to be enveloped in something completely unrelated to what I'm studying for is much needed at times!

4. Go for a walk around campus/ town

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Sometimes I start to go 'stir crazy' if I've been sitting inside for too long! I love putting in some earbuds and going for a walk around campus if it's a pretty day, just to get a break from staring at a computer. And, okay yes, I usually treat myself to a coffee while I'm out (CG is the move if you're at Baylor)!

5. Get some friends together and make a treat of some sort

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Sometimes at the end of a long study day, my friends and I just want to do something low-key and fun. A lot of times my friends and I will go to the store and get a couple of ingredients to make a dessert together. These do not have to be elaborate. Some of the things my friends and I have baked this year include a cookie log, peep s'mores, and pre-made cookies. We're not exactly honing in on our culinary/baking skills, but it's fun to spend time together and have a yummy end result!

6. Make some tea, diffuse some essential oil, and do a face mask

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I absolutely love doing a 'self-care' night every once in a while. When I have a test I, along with many others I'm sure, can get super stressed and anxious! One thing that really helps calm me down is putting on a face mask, making myself some tea, and diffusing some essential oils. I use this time to read my Bible, catch up on a TV show, or just listen to music. As important as it is to prepare well for the test/final, it helps me so much to schedule in some "relaxation" time as well!

7. Use a journal either to reflect on the day or sketch

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I'm going to preface this by saying, I am not artsy at all. However, sometimes getting out a journal and sketching/doodling is a great way to de-stress in the midst of studying! I also really enjoy using a journal to write reflections/prayers/ quotes I love as a way to break up the studying as well.

8. Make a presentation on something you're excited about

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This is for all you fellow type-A personality, planners like me! One of my favorite ways to relax and reward myself after studying is to make a presentation (google slide presentation to be exact) of some events/places/plans I'm excited for. I've made presentations detailing what my friends and I will do in the summer, travel plans, and a study-abroad information presentation for my parents, amongst other things.

Hopefully, these ideas will help get y'all through the stress of the final exams/tests/quizzes to come. Though unconventional, these are just some of the ways I remind myself that there is ultimately more to life than school and studying!

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