To start, mental illness is a real thing. It gets so easily overlooked and unless a person has it themselves or is close to someone who does, they probably don't care. And there's a ridiculous stigma that it can't be spoken of because they assume no one needs or wants to hear it.
The problem with not talking about it is that the people struggling with mental illness are made to suppress their feelings and bottle everything up inside. In turn, no one else is forced to try to understand how much it varies and all the different ways to handle it.
The thing is that no two cases of mental illnesses are the same and should be treated as so. Everyone has different needs. Some need people around to feel better while others like to be alone, there are different coping mechanisms, and the list goes on. It's important to not be ashamed of where you've been in your mental health in order to get past it.
Every person dealing with a mental illness is different, but we're all in it together.
One commonality is that we all have our own version of rock bottom. I have mine, so I'll begin with that.
It's a story few people know. Only the people there to witness it know it ever happened at all. It's something I think about all the time but never mention. I said I was ready to talk about mental illness and I am. I'm not ashamed to speak of it because I know talking about it and remembering it is what keeps it my lowest point and prevents me from going backward. It's my chance to move forward.
I was 15 and high school was the roughest it had ever been. Death in the family, various pressures and the constant feeling of being more alone than ever were all too much to handle. Nothing made sense because I was happy and I took everything with a grain of salt before. Thankfully, it was all the worst it would ever get, and I learned that I could handle it, I just didn't know it would get better. I didn't think it would because I was depressed. A few weeks before I hit my lowest point, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and it all lined up.
I was sent to a therapist to talk about my problems, but for the first time ever, I couldn't speak. The happy, talkative, outgoing, personally-aware girl I was didn't want to sit down and explain what was wrong. I didn't think at that moment that anything was wrong, but I should have. I was just tired and stressed all the time. I thought it was normal to not be okay. Then I had a constant reminder that it wasn't normal, and I needed to be fixed.
That voice in my head got to be too loud and my lowest point was fast approaching. I grabbed a bottle of pills and didn't think twice about what would happen next. There wasn't a phone number I would have been willing to call to change my mind; I decided at that moment to just be done. It took for my mom to rip the bottle out of my hands for me to pause and I calmed down. Whether it was one thing or everything at once that triggered it is something I don't know. It all happened so fast and it's a blur. Nothing about the decision I was making made sense at that moment. It still doesn't almost four years later.
The biggest blessing is that I'm still here, if for no other reason than to share my story and to empathize with others on a different level than many can. I also get to constantly learn from it; about myself and the value of life. Having a mental illness, and specifically dealing with one, requires one to know a lot more about the self than anything else. What I knew immediately was that I refused to accept that my mental illness would define who I was, who I would become and what I would do.
I knew I didn't want to be medicated because I considered that "artificial happiness." It works for a lot of people and that's great, but it scared me. I knew there were things that still could make me happy. It didn't matter how hard I would have to work to get it, I just would.
The next step was just to figure out what it would take to pick myself up and to keep my rock bottom at the bottom. I had to learn how to cope safely through music, meditation, exercise and a balance of all my guilty pleasures. I had to figure out how to put in the extra effort to be as happy as I could. I had to learn that emotions are beautiful but they fluctuate and that's okay as long as I am able to channel them in a healthy way. I have to be able to see the signs that I'm getting down. I know I like to be around people so the moments I prefer being alone, I know something's off and I talk to someone. I'm still figuring it all out one step at a time because that's all I can do.
I also learn about others because of what I went through. I know to check on my loved ones, regardless of how fine they seem because I remember being the one who hid her feelings. I know not to judge how someone copes because we're all just trying to deal. I try to be good company because I know how valuable it was to have it. I know what it takes to keep up good mental health, so I don't knock anyone for being worn out.
It's quite a process of growing and evolving over time. It's a matter of not judging what we don't understand and helping and showing support when we do. It's not a phase and it's not a trend. Mental illnesses are real things and rock bottom is a real place. I could give a tour of it with my eyes closed. I will argue its existence for my entire life because no one should feel bad or inauthentic about their reality.
It's easy to pass judgments on what we don't understand. However, when there are misunderstandings, there's room for questions to be asked. Compassion and support go a long way, much further than confusion and generalizations.
Regardless of doubt and assumptions, mental health is important.
It is said that there are more cases of mental illness than there ever were before, but instead of denying its presence, the concern should be about fixing it. The pressures for perfection and success have been far more apparent nowadays, so balance should be more encouraged.
No one should have to feel alone. Talking should feel a lot easier than hiding behind the pain.