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5 Things I Want Someone Who's Been Diagnosed With a Mental Illness to Know

When I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and panic disorder at 15 years old, I had no clue what to expect. I knew my parents had depression and took medicine from time to time, but I didn’t know anyone else. I tried so hard to hide my diagnosis, making sure no one saw me taking any medication. I never wanted to answer questions like, “What are you taking? Are you sick?” Looking back, I wish I had someone there to tell me what it was going to be like. Here are five tips to keep in mind if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

1. There’s no “happy pill.”

Upon being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I thought, “Great! I will get a ‘happy pill’ and be on my merry way!” I quickly learned this wasn’t the case. Some antidepressants take up to six weeks to start working. These six weeks are frustrating. What’s even more frustrating is finding out some of the side effects — some medication makes you sleepy, have no sex drive, gain weight and make you feel like vomiting. You will either get over the initial side effects, or you’ll have to endure another six weeks on another medication. The most important thing to know is that it’s worth it. When you finally find a medication that works with your body, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

2. Some people will not understand.

Even though talking about mental illness is less taboo, there’s still a large stigma attached to it. Since the signs and symptoms of mental illness are mostly internal, some people will not understand. They can’t see your daily struggle to drag yourself out of bed. They can’t see you telling yourself you can get through one more day or working up enough courage to get through the door at work. Because they don’t see it they’ll think nothing is wrong, maybe even that you’re faking it. Do not listen to these people. You keep fighting your fight and pay no attention to the naysayers. They haven’t walked your path and therefore have no right to judge.

3. It’s OK not to be OK.

After hearing words like, “You have depression and an anxiety disorder,” you may feel like you’re finally on the mend. You now have a reason for feeling the way you’ve been feeling. I always feel like since I’m on medication and in therapy I should have it all together. But there will be days when you don’t. There will be days and maybe even weeks you relapse into a deep depression or mental breakdown. Take this time to work on yourself. Take it one day at a time. Write a list of things to accomplish that day and don’t think any further than that. My lists are as simple as “get out of bed, take a shower, get dressed…’” One time I had to take a month off of work to just get my life back together. But I’m learning I can always work though it. 

4. You will want to give up, but you’re stronger than that.

At times, you’ll feel like giving up. You’ll feel like no one understands, that no medication will ever work or that you just can’t live this life anymore. You are wrong. You are strong enough. You are important. You are loved. You will get through the feelings of hopelessness and doubt. There are better days to come. I’ve been through some really dark darks, and I’m so happy that I didn’t give up. So many people will be proud of you for getting through yours. Never give up.

5. You are never alone.

There’s always someone out there rooting for you, someone to talk to and someone who understands. Reach out to these people. It may be a stranger or it may be your best friend, but there’s always someone. You don’t have to go through this battle alone.

This advice is based on one person’s experiences, and should not be taken as medical advice. 

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Mighty is asking the following: Give advice to someone who has just been diagnosed with your mental illness. What do you wish someone had told you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.