Mental illnesses aren’t always as obvious as some might think.

It’s not all in your head

October 12, 2018

Oct. 10 marks what many have come to recognize as World Mental Health Awareness Day. People all around the world are affected by some type of mental illness. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, almost 75 percent of people with mental disorders remain untreated in developing countries with almost 1 million people taking their lives each year. It’s time to start talking about it.

Mental illnesses aren’t always as obvious as some might think. That girl you see smiling and laughing in the hallway everyday? She’s been battling anxiety for the past year.

That boy who is really smart and has his life together? He’s had depression for over two years now.

That girl you think needs to eat a few more burgers? She’s fighting anorexia nervosa. It’s time to stop judging people by their shells and start looking a little deeper.

I was diagnosed a few months ago with General Anxiety Disorder. I went to my first counseling session before a big game. I remember walking two steps into the doctor’s office and without saying a word, instant tears flooded my face. I felt like I had lost control of the wheel, driving the car that is my life. I sat there and cried for what felt like an hour. I finally was able to calm down and choke out words to my therapist who sat in front of me holding out a tissue box. Never mind that I had a game to play in two hours; my head and my heart were all over the place.

I rambled on and on about everything swirling through my brain.There were so many things to stress over, to get done, to fix, and I couldn’t find time or space to do it all at once. I felt like I had to do everything and be everything that everyone expected of me: A star athlete, model student, social butterfly, and it was all so exhausting.

I felt like everything was crashing down and the walls were caving in, but it was just the opposite. I had so much going for me, but I had put those minor, little things under a microscope to seem like bigger problems than they actually were. My therapist reminded me, we’re all human and no one is perfect. We all have our own struggles and that it is okay to take time for yourself.

My parents and my siblings have been a huge part of my support system. Not that I couldn’t talk to them about what was going on, but I truly didn’t think they would understand. I felt like I couldn’t trust any of my friends with what I was going through because sooner or later the whole school would find out. Then, I would be labeled as an attention seeker or drama queen.

One thing I want to urge everyone who is going through something: talking about it and advocating for it is not attention-seeking, and it doesn’t make you dramatic; it makes you brave. It was extremely hard for me to come forward to tell my parents what was going on and how I was feeling. For those who find the courage to talk to others and open up the conversation, you, my friend, are one of the most fearless people I know.

It’s time to break the stigma. Parents, talk to your kids and let them know that if they ever feel or begin to feel depressed, anxious, overwhelmed or stressed, that they can come to you as a resource and a guide.

As a friend to someone who might be going through a mental illness, be a rock for them to lean on. Be trustworthy, kind and patient.

As a genuine person, realize that everyone is going through something we may not know anything about. So be kind with your words, actions and understanding towards someone who may be having a rough day.

It doesn’t go away overnight; I can attest to that. Now, months later, I still have rough days that usually come in clumps. I still take medicine to help me calm down, so I can put things into perspective. But I also have really good days when I laugh till my stomach aches and smile till my cheeks are sore. It’s another beast, but it is one that, with a little educating and awareness, we can all help each other conquer.

 

Sincerely,

Not a Drama Queen

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