I began my recovery from multiple mental health issues a number of years ago. However, I am still far from where I'd like to be. It's frustrating to see mental illness romanticized in social media — particularly in a TikTok trend that uses the "I get overwhelmed" audio to self-diagnose anxiety. There is nothing inherently wrong with self-diagnosing — I firmly believe you do not need a doctor to confirm you have anxiety or depression. However, just because you are unable to sit still for a few seconds does not mean you have a generalized anxiety disorder, nor does it mean you need to try and attain views for having a mental illness.
Let's get one thing straight — mental illness is not fun. It's not a trend that makes you mysterious and edgy, it's something that negatively impacts millions of people each day. I don't think we talk enough about how competitive mental illness can be. Social media turns conditions like depression into "who is the most miserable" when it shouldn't be that way at all.
We should be empathizing with one another, and lifting each other up in our journeys to get better.
On the flip-side, I see many wellness accounts across Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc. Most of these are insightful to someone trying to self-manage their emotional health, however, some creators make it seem like you are not succeeding if you still have bad days.
Recovery is not a linear progression. This past year, I've been very hard on myself for having days when I "regress" into spiraling downward with my mood. I get angry at myself, thinking I've grown out of this phase. Currently, I'm working to acknowledge my moods and meet myself each day.
Just like how our energy and metabolism varies from day to day, so does our mental health. One day it might seem like your depression is in the past, and the next day will be spent with the same foggy exhaustion you've fought so hard to escape. This does not mean you've failed. This does not mean it isn't worth it to keep trying to get better. Remember, the goal is not to be perfect, the goal is to grow.
For those of us who have come a long way in overcoming depression, one hard month does not mean we have slipped back into our old selves. Humans are not designed to be happy every day and even if you begin your day on a down note, it does not mean you have to end it that way.
Perhaps the most frustrating phrase I've been told by family and friends is "happiness is a choice." I wish those who haven't experienced mental illness would understand that it does not feel like I am in control of my happiness, but rather it feels like my moods are in control of me.
With that said, I believe there are more complex issues to mental illness such as chemical balances within the brain, however, I think there are things we can choose to "be happy." Getting out of bed, taking a shower, or going for a walk are all small steps to "choosing happiness." Choosing happiness does not mean, "Oh, I'll be happy today" and magically feeling ecstatic. Choosing happiness is taking whatever steps you can manage to move towards a happier place. This will look different for every individual, and that's okay.
It's okay if you're worse than you were last week. It's okay if someone else has an easier time "choosing happiness" than you. Even if you are fighting to be better, it's okay to admit that you are not okay.
In honor of Emotional Wellness Month, check-in with yourself. How are you feeling today? What can you do right now that might make you feel better, even if only slightly?
Wherever you are in your journey, I wish you strength and peace as you work towards becoming the most whole version of yourself. Remember, it's always best to ask for help when you need it, and it's okay to be honest with yourself about how you are actually doing.
Try to do something kind to yourself today.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255