When you ask people around me what they think of when they hear my name, here are some of the things that they will probably tell you. They'll probably say that I'm nice. They'll probably say that I'm smart, talented, and hard-working. They'll say that I'm quiet, but passionate and determined. They'll say that I'm strong.
But here's what they won't say: They won't say that I struggle to get out of bed almost every day. Or that I set my extra early to give myself time to do so. They won't say that I am very forgetful or that I space out a lot. They won't say that I avoid eye contact like it's the plague.
I often lack the motivation to do the things I need and want to do on a daily basis. Tiredness and exhaustion are a constant for me, whether I sleep too much or not at all. My appetite can change on the regular. Some days, I'm hungry for everything in sight, and other days, just the thought of food is enough to upset my stomach.
My anger is unpredictable. Sometimes I don't talk at all, and other times, I'm on the verge of rambling.
It takes an immense amount of concentration for me to do even the smallest of tasks — I am nitpicky. Any sort of change can send me spiraling because I struggle to adjust.
Sometimes I feel everything, and other times, I feel nothing at all. I often push people away, sometimes not even realizing it, because my mind thinks it's safer than letting them in to see who I really am.
I am my own worst critic. I fixate on every perceived or actual personal flaw and often let them consume me. I always find a reason to hate on myself.
In case it wasn't clear before, I struggle with my mental health, and like so many other people experiencing similar things, you most likely not be able to tell that just by looking at me.
This is not meant to be a cry for attention or help. This is not meant to be egocentric. My point in sharing this is to show that mental health struggles don't always have to be visible for everyone for them to exist.
People who struggle with their mental health often put on a "brave face" to make it through the day.
We all have our reasons for "hiding" what we are going through. I can't speak on what those reasons are for others, but I know that at least for me, I put on a brave face to hide from the stigma that surrounds mental health issues.
We need to stop shaming negative feelings and emotions. We need to stop enforcing the idea that these are an active choice. We need to stop therapy and pill shaming. Our mental health is just as important to treat and talk about as our physical health. Stigmatizing it is why so many people don't want to talk about what's going on with them and seek help.
I know it seems almost contradictory, but I think that a big way to combat stigma is to be brave, open, and honest about your mental health. I know firsthand just how hard that can be when you are struggling. That is why it is important to normalize the struggle in a way that people who don't get it do.
Combatting stigma is going to take a huge amount of work, but the work is necessary and crucial. We should not be afraid to speak out about our struggles with our mental health. We are all people, and our feelings are human and valid.