The Moment I Realized I Needed to Write About Mental Illness

I remember the first bad mark I ever received on a math test in my life. 

I was in fifth grade, the freshest meat in middle school. My teacher was definitely top five I’ve ever had. Her name was Mrs. Held and boy, she was great. She was kind, caring and her passion for teaching was extremely obvious. It was probably halfway through the school year when I got a test handed back to me with a mark of 74. I was beside myself. I’d been a straight-A student my entire life; I was heartbroken.

I felt like I’d failed myself and I was more worried about telling my parents — so worried that I put it off a few days. I thought about it every second of every day until I told them. It took courage. It took will power. It took everything inside of me to realize that one bad grade was a small obstacle in the path of life.

Speaking about mental illness takes guts, especially if you’re blessed with it. Until I had a few years of experience on my plate — just like any subject you’re trying to master — I was terrified to speak about it. The stigma of mental illness can be extremely intimidating to a person suffering. 

I finally had the perfect awakening when I was 19 years old. After spending less than 24 hours in a psychiatric hospital, I realized just how important it really was to speak up about what I was going.

To this day, my dad tells me I should write a screenplay because my experience with mental illness felt unique. In the hospital, I witnessed things no person, let alone teenager, ever should. Some of the people that surrounded me in my unit were essentially stuck there forever. 

It occurred to me that if they can’t be the voice of metal illness, who could? 

There it was — my opportunity to be courageous and speak about mental illness.

I think about my time in that hospital almost every single day — not out of fright but out of shock.  How could mental illness be so prevalent in today’s world and yet a taboo subject? 

unnamed (37) When I was stripped of all my belongings in the hospital, they marked them with pieces of tape and wrote my name on them. Over a year later, my phone charger, down to the cord of the wire, is still marked. I see it as a friendly reminder to myself that I’m the voice for so many who are scared or unable to speak up. I see it as proof that you can truly overcome anything.

It’s OK to not be OK, no matter the time of day. I remember a few days after my cousin’s wedding; I was sitting on her couch with her. I felt a wave of emotion come over me, but tried my hardest to hold it in. I didn’t want to bring down the new wifey after the biggest day of her life. But I suddenly felt tears streaming down my face, and there was no stopping them. She asked why I was crying, and I didn’t have a straight answer. We both just sat there with no further talk of it, as she knows that not saying anything is better than saying the wrong thing. She’s an example of someone who’s educated on mental illness and understands.

I write about mental illness because it’s a fact of life. I write about it because it gives those living in silence a sense of hope. I’m the voice of mental illness, and I want to change the way the world looks at it, even if it’s in the slightest way possible. I know what it’s like to feel alone, and nobody deserves to feel that way. Nobody.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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