I’ve debated on writing this post for a long time. I didn’t exactly know what to say, and I was kind of afraid of judgement. But, it’s come to a point where I need to talk about this and I know that I am going to feel better after I’m done writing.
“Mental Illness” is a phrase that has always been kind of taboo for some unknown reason. It’s been getting more attention lately, but I have always noticed people shy away from the term or ask people affected if they are “crazy”.
First things first: having a mental illness does not make someone crazy. There are many different types and levels of mental illnesses, but those struggling with this issue should NEVER be referred to as crazy. It’s incorrect and it hurts. It hurts a lot.
Last year, I struggled with mental illness. More specifically, I struggled with extreme depression and anxiety. I am better now, even though it still likes to show up some days. But now I know how to send it away quickly and to not let it keep me down.
There was no one specific moment when it started, when I looked at myself and thought, “Hey, I might be depressed”. It came slowly and eventually consumed me. I would lie awake for hours at night, staring up at my ceiling waiting to fall asleep. When I did fall asleep, I wouldn’t want to wake up. I would lay there under my covers, dreading getting up. And not because I wanted to leave the warmth of my bed, but because I didn’t want to have to face anyone that day. My room resembled a pig stye and I wouldn’t care about cleaning up. My grades would slip because I would just zone out during class, or I would just not go. I wouldn’t do my reading and would often times leave my homework until the last possible second. I detached myself from my friends and family and I just stopped caring. Thoughts that I never wanted to have would slither into my mind and I couldn’t get rid of them.
Anxiety also consumed me wherever I went. I couldn’t talk to people, I would avoid going to the grocery store for days and days so that I wouldn’t have to talk to the clerks. I stopped speaking in classes. I would be afraid of going anywhere with my friends because I was so afraid to speak.
It then began to hit me all at once, like a giant wall being smashed to the ground. I was slowly ruining my life, without really even realizing it. I knew that I had to climb out of this hole I had dug myself, but I didn’t know how.
But, eventually, after talking to my parents and some really close friends, I found a way to help myself. It involved forcing myself to get out of bed every morning, even when I did not want to. I had to force myself to do school work and force myself to exercise. Now, it’s back at the point to where I don’t have to force myself to do anything anymore, I just do it.
I also decided to get rid of some toxic relationships in my life. It was hard, and I still sometimes find myself missing these people. But I know that in the long run, we are all better off because of it.
I mended some relationships that I definitely didn’t need to be rid of, but just needed to be fixed.
I’m not sad anymore, even though I still have those days where I feel lethargic and don’t want to face the world, but everyone has those days. Those days are a part of being human and being alive. The anxiety still gets at me sometimes too, but that is something that I am overcoming. I can actually speak to grocery store clerks now.
I owe it to my amazing family and good friends for helping me through last year and for not calling me “crazy”. Because yes, I was called crazy and was once called “mentally insane/unstable” by people who didn’t have the faintest idea what I was going through. And that really sucked.
So, why am I telling this story?
Well, mental health is a huge issue, especially for college students. We are faced with new pressures and stresses we have never previously faced before and those pressures can break even the most collected of people. Depression rates among college students are at an all time, as are suicides and cases of self harm. This needs to be stopped. It is important for people to learn practices of self care, something I am still trying to learn myself. People also need to learn how to recognize the signs of potential mental illness in others so that they can help.
I’m not saying that we should consider all sad people to be depressed, all people who are nervous to have anxiety, all people who talk to themselves occasionally to be schizophrenic or even all people who have mood swings to be bipolar.
But, it’s good to know the signs.
We also shouldn’t tell people who are struggling with these issues, “Oh, you’re just stressed, you’ll be fine.” Because it definitely does not work that way. Actually talk to people and listen to them, help them out. Show them that there is more to the world than the pressures and stresses and sadness they are experiencing. And if they want to be left alone, leave them alone. Just let them know you care.
Also, take care of yourself. Take a little time everyday to check in with yourself. Do what I do: look at yourself in the mirror and take three deep breaths. Tell yourself, “I’m okay.” It’s not much, but it keeps me on track every day.
Don’t write off mental illness or ignore it completely. It is a real thing and it is up to everyone to help make things easier for others.
Your honesty is very refreshing. I’m glad you’re feeling better now.
Oh, Elizabeth, this is a beautifully written msg! So sorry you’ve had to experience what real Depression is like. I’ve been down that road myself (& so did my dad). Mine came 15 years ago during and an awful bout with Bell’s Palsey on the left side of my face, which left that side of my face completely paralyzed. (It’s similar to a facial stroke that doesn’t have anything to do with the heart, etc.) I couldn’t go back to work for 3 months. All those things you mention,,,the withdrawal, sleeping, avoiding social situations, etc. are well known to me. I’ve been taking a med all this time since then & it really helps tremendously. Most of the left side has healed, but there’s still some residual evidence that it was there (which I’m sure you’ve noticed). I try not to get too down about it since it had looked so horrible & now is much better. So…I still have my moments.So happy that you’re doing much better. I’d definitely say to keep on doing what you’re doing, but just know there are some wonderful drugs out there that can be a huge help if you ever feel you need a little more help. Please feel free to call or email me if you ever want to talk. Of course, your wonderful parents have been there for you and I know that will continue. Just in case, though, here’s my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone # is 901-641-1860. If you do decide to call, please send me your phone # since I don’t pick up my phone unless I know the #. I’d also like to get your e-mail address if you don’t mindl Are you on FB? Don’t remember if we’re friends. Will check.
Looking so forward to Thanksgiving with you guys! Will send you a list of songs we’ll likely “work on” that day & would love for you to tell us what you’d like to sing. Love you so much, Elizabeth
This really touched my heart. I have dealt with these same issues for years. I have also been labeled as being mentally unstable. No one knows what it’s like until they have experienced it themselves.