It’s taken me an awfully long time to stop hating myself. I hated myself for everything: my vices, my bad judgment, hurtful words, my life. I hated everything about it.
Anxiety can root from shame, and as my anxiety continually rose, I couldn’t decide what exactly I was so ashamed about.
It wasn’t until a year after I had been diagnosed with mental illness that I figured it out. I was ashamed of something I could never control: my mind.
The urges, dark thoughts, racing thoughts, regrets. All of these things began to disappear one by one the day I started treatment.
When something bad happened recently, I kept waiting for all the feelings of self-destruction to arise, for me to start hating myself, and all that comes with depression. But it never did and here’s why:
1. I had recognized I was sick two years ago, and I did something about it. Mental illness is all too common, and so many people are too prideful to seek answers from a professional. I was totally embarrassed about going to the psych unit, but I did it because I was too afraid to tell anyone what I was going through. Now I take so much pride in the fact that I was strong enough to go through the journey completely by myself!
2. I persevered. Yes, rumors I heard about myself broke my heart. They broke my family’s heart. I broke down so many times in tears, met with so many therapists, cried to all of my friends, and kept wondering why I had to keep living. But what I did was let the bad days come, standing just as fearlessly as the good and telling myself, “I have a purpose, I have a purpose.”
3. I broke my silence. I told people my story, in the most raw way. I shared what I was going through with my family and friends. I was open about what I was dealing with instead of caring around the weight of secrecy. Without caring what people thought, I was able to let go of my shame.
4. I stopped hating myself and started to realize my purpose. I’ve shared by journey with bipolar disorder with several people, I’ve written about it, and have exposed something that shocks most – I’m a pretty “normal” person. People who have never known a person with such diagnosis often paint a picture of fear in their minds of what people with mental illness are like. I’m just an average girl, in her mid 20s, holding down a job and trying to be charitable within my community. I have loads of friends who love me and parents who are proud. There’s nothing to be scared of. And maybe that is my life purpose: to fight this stigma of mental illness, trying my best to be a role model and advocate for people who just want to be seen as normal.
Recently, I got together with a high school friend who had just been declared cancer-free after being diagnosed with stage four cancer. We sat on her couch after years of not seeing each other and talked.
While cancer and bipolar disorder are two completely different things, we both had reached a mutual conclusion: life is so unbelievably short and unpredictable. Why struggle in complete silence?
So although I am a few days late, this is my letter to those of you struggling in silence or in the open, in honor of National Mental Health Day. No matter who you are and no matter where you come from, just know your voice deserves to be heard. Keep going, even if it means talking about something that most people avoid talking about.
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