I’ve known I had mental health problems since early high school. I tried to put names to my feelings, to try and explain why I felt that way and how to fix it.
Of course, there isn’t much you can do to fix a mental illness, only manage it. But still, I tried. The one thing I didn’t do, however, was ask for help.
My whole life, I’ve been surrounded by people who struggled with mental illnesses, particularly depression and anxiety. The problem was that I also was surrounded by stigma towards mental illness. For a long time, I felt like something was wrong with me because of my struggles with my own mind, that I was somehow less worthy of love or help because my problems weren’t visible to everyone.
My mother has struggled with depression most of her life, and I always knew it. But when I started to think about my own mental health, I found that my depression was very different from hers, and so I felt like I was somehow faking it, despite knowing that if I could just stop feeling this, I would have.
But depression in adults presents itself very differently than in teens, as most mental illnesses tend to. Whereas she felt a deep, all-encompassing sadness all the time, I just felt… nothing. I couldn’t explain it to anyone, the way I felt as if I was just watching my own life play out without feeling motivated to take part in it.
I was terrified that someone, anyone, would confirm my fears that I was just making it all up in my head. Then my brother started school, and immediately it became apparent that his own struggles and difficulties were much more visible than mine.
So, I decided to just… fade into the background. He went to psychologists and specialists to try and get answers, and I heard all these possible diagnoses and the reasoning behind them and thought “That could just as well be me.” I just never said anything.
I felt guilty for even thinking about taking any focus away from him, who was struggling in school and clearly a priority, to selfishly try and make myself feel better.
I never really struggled in school. I had good grades, and teachers liked me.
What I struggled with was focusing. I was always known as a chatterbox in school, and I often turned teachers out in the middle of class because I simply couldn’t pay attention anymore. But because it never affected my grades, my
parents never really thought much of it.
They simply told me to pay more attention and talk less, and that was that. I’m now 23 and finally on the way to a diagnosis for ADHD. Psychologists list chattiness and spacing out as symptoms of ADHD in girls and women, something that is less common in boy patients, which is why it’s not often something that triggers alarms for most people.
Four months ago I took my first ever set of therapy sessions to help with my anxiety and depression, which hit an all-time low late last year. I know that I was only able to take these steps for myself because I no longer live with my family, and thus no longer feel guilty for demanding attention for my problems.
I only have myself to worry about now, so I finally gave myself the chance to try to get better, and I feel better for it. Sometimes, just having someone confirm what you think you know is enough to lift a weight off your shoulders, and that’s how it’s felt for me because I never thought I would get that at all.
For Mental Health Awareness week, this is my message to you: get help. Reach out. Even if you feel like it’s pointless. It never is. You might not get the answers you’re expecting,
but you’ll learn something that will help you keep going forward. Psychological help is something every single one of us can benefit from, regardless of how high or low you feel at any given time.
Sometimes just talking to someone is enough to make you feel a little better, and that, in turn, is enough to help keep going. Your mind is a part of you, just like the rest of your body, and keeping it healthy is crucial, always.