a woman walking down a dark hall

My wife and I love movies. We go to the cinema at least once a week and watch plenty more at home. As my wife’s anxiety sometimes makes it difficult for her to go out, it’s great to have something she looks forward to every week. Our favorite are horror films.

The movie “Lights Out” looked great, and it seemed to have a particularly scary premise. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, it is about a creature who can only be seen with the lights out. Therefore, we went to the cinema excited about the film.

I looked uneasily at my wife as the protagonist in the story called her mother crazy, and then asked her if she had taken her pills. From that moment on, the film was filled with cringe worthy moments diminishing the reality of mental illness, from the way antidepressants work to the attitude of the mother’s family.

When I got home, I read up about the movie, and it turns out the writers actually planned the movie to be a metaphor of depression. They clearly didn’t do their research. The worst thing about the movie (spoilers coming up), was the ending. The mother kills herself to be rid of the “monster”and save her family, and everyone is happy and relieved. What a message to send to the public about mental illness and to people who are struggling with feelings of worthlessness surrounding their own mental illness.

The actions of the people involved in this film spoke volumes to me about the stigma surrounding mental health and will only serve to reinforce negative stereotypes. If done slightly differently, then it could have actually have had a positive message, much like “The Babadook.” Unfortunately, this was not the case.

While this was an extreme example, it is sadly common to see poor interpretations of mental illness in popular culture, whether in direct use of a mental illness story or in careless use of language. This, unfortunately, greatly diminishes the effects of films and television shows that are written in a positive and caring way.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Screenshot via “Lights Out”


The hard part about mental illness and all invisible illnesses is that you’d never know the battle each person is fighting. You don’t know what they have to do to get themselves out of bed and moving each day. Not many people know I take a stimulant medication for my attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and an antidepressant for my anxiety. I always have an upbeat, positive attitude but inside things aren’t always so great.

Many people take their brain functioning for granted. They’ll never understand what us neurodiverse people go through. I love my medication for what it allows me to do when I’m on it. Yet, I hate when I don’t have it in my system, I’m a mess.

My meds allow me to think more clearly, get organized and be alert, but this only lasts a small portion of my day. I love that I don’t feel as worried about things. I don’t have as much social anxiety. I can reach out to friends and others to see how they are.

However, this doesn’t always carry over when I’m not on my meds. I can plan for my day, make lists of what needs to get done, but meds don’t tell you what to focus on. If your brain strays elsewhere, then you will certainly not get that list done.

At the end of the day, when those meds wear off, it’s not always easy. I want to get myself ready for the next day, but I’m not focused on that. It’s exhausting to try and get things done sometimes because my brain just takes so much more energy to direct its focus where I need it. Sometimes, at the end of the day I’m just so tired.

I love that there is something there to help me, medication that eases my mind’s wandering and anxious thoughts, allowing me to be the person I know I could be. Yet, it’s a battle. It’s not always easy.

I wouldn’t change my life because this is who I am and who I was meant to be. I am carving my path as I go. I may encounter a few bumps on the road, but I will never stop.

Anyone else out there who is having a tough time with meds or invisible illnesses, just remember, tomorrow is another day. There will always be another tomorrow. Keep going, keep trying and do your personal best each day.

It doesn’t matter what others can do and are doing. Do what you can and you need to do. You are strong and smart. You can accomplish your dreams, even if it takes longer than others!

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

I’m awake, but my eyes are still closed. Maybe, I can go back to sleep if I don’t open them. Maybe… and before I can think about anything else, there is a rush of sadness with its claws out, slamming against me like an angry wave.

It’s like a punch in the gut, and it knocks all hopes and strength out of me. The claws scratching your insides, while the wave has smashed you so hard against yourself that it feels like death, but death never comes.

Instead, there is more pain. There is less air, and your heart feels like it is beating so hard it will burst out of your chest. Your hands and feet start to freeze, as if they no longer belong to the same body that feels on fire. You feel light headed, and your breath becomes shallow. It feels like it will never end.

The doom that has surrounded you as you’re falling through yourself and in a black hole, where nothing familiar exists, stretches you so far that you feel like breaking. I feel like I’m being held by an invisible hand over a massive cliff, and I just won’t die. If it lets me go, then it could all end. It would be painful for a bit, but then black and into what I think will be a blissful nothingness. Instead, I’m hanging in mid-air, arms and legs flailing about, too scared of the darkness that surrounds me.

I’ve been awake for two minutes, and I am drained. I roll over to my side and open my eyes wide open with the hope that… and there is another wave, bigger and stronger. I am frozen. I feel like I’m drowning in painful memories of yesterday and in thoughts of the real world that awaits me today. A world where no one knows I’ve already drowned, I’ve already survived and I wish I had just died before I’ve even had the chance to turn off my alarm.

I fall deeper through the black hole as it occurs to me I have nowhere to go. There is no safe place to go and hide for the day. There is no safe person who isn’t at least slightly confused and annoyed by my dramatic emotions. I feel cold while I feel like the blanket is strangling me. There is a buzzing sound in my ear. You know, the kind that you get when you are some place abandoned and secluded, where there isn’t a single sound.

I feel it fill my head and start making it more difficult to breath. I feel like the walls are closing in and I might suffocate, but I don’t. I want to run away.

I want to sleep, I’m so exhausted. Sleeping isn’t an option when waking up is so terrifying. I want to scream, but that doesn’t make sense. I’m not “crazy”… I’ve just lost myself — or am I?

I start to think of people who can help, but I’m not sold on the idea. It will be hours before I can reach out to anyone. What would I even say? I am scared to be alone with myself. I feel alone and terrified. I feel like a child who has had a nightmare and needs to be consoled. I want to sleep, but I need you to be here when I wake up because that’s the hardest part. I want to die.

I can’t say any of that. None of those things are acceptable to say, even if you are in excruciating pain. I am not bleeding or physically broken. I do not have a fever, even though I think my insides are on fire. There is nothing visible to show for the hell I’ve just gone through. My head is pounding, and I feel like vomiting everything that is boiling inside of me, but nothing comes out.

Instead, with the fear of the world that awaits, with the fear of the wrong things I will hear, fear of lack of support, lack of love, lack of compassion or understanding, the fear of the invisible hand that will dangle me over the edge of the cliff time and time again, I put every ounce of energy I have into lifting myself out of bed.

I sit there for a short while, and I can feel hot tears stinging my eyes. There is something sharp that is squeezing my throat. At that moment, I feel so sorry for myself, so sorry for carrying all this pain and so angry for not being able to let it go. I want to scream again.

I want to know why? Why doesn’t it get better? Why doesn’t anyone see? There is no answer, and I feel just a little more alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Image via Thinkstock.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

This piece was written by Sarah Hughes, a Thought Catalog contributor.

I just finished my fifth year of high school (barely) and I am beyond excited for the next chapter of my life. This, however, hasn’t always been the case. You see, I used to be afraid of the future. This fear was merciless, suffocating me from the inside out, and it dictated my entire life. Later, after many visits to doctors, therapists and a psychiatrist, I learned this kind of fear has a name.

“Sarah, meet Anxiety,” the world of medical personnel declared. At first I was intrigued, happy to be able to finally call this intruder by name. Maybe we could get to know each other better. Maybe we could learn to coincide instead of constantly indulging in disputes over whether or not people liked me or how I failed to meet my ridiculous expectations of perfection once again.

Anxiety, unfortunately, had other plans in mind. Continuously coming over uninvited and completely ignorant to social cues, Anxiety became infamous for overstaying its welcome. Neglecting all duties of an acceptable hostess, I tried to make it obvious I wanted this houseguest to leave. This made Anxiety lonely. Vengeful. It had to do something. It needed back up.

“Sarah, meet Depression.” I tried to tell the world of medicine I didn’t need any more friends. I told them I already had plenty. This, however, was obviously a lie as I had become a recluse, refusing to leave the familiar four walls of my bedroom. Many saw right through the twisted web of lies I had carelessly woven. I’m not going out anymore, because I’m sick. I’m not trying in school, because I don’t care. I’m honestly fine. I think I knew these were not believable, but one of my other acquaintances, Apathy, reminded me it didn’t really matter if I lied. It didn’t really matter if anyone believed me. Nothing really mattered.

I never got along with Anxiety, but my relationship with Depression was a whole different story. We despised each other. It was a deep loathing I had never felt before. We had formed a brutal rivalry, the only casualties on my side. It was every man for himself. Depression was a lot worse to me than Anxiety ever was. I think it’s because Depression had me brainwashed, kind of like the older guy you date in high school who you’re madly in love with, but he has you believing the entirety of your self-worth is dependent upon what he says.

I was hopeless, worn out and at times suicidal. This dynamic duo was relentless. I began to fail classes, lose friends and become fixated on self-sabotage. I even went as far as taking an overdose that landed me a two-week hospital stay in the mental health unit at the local hospital, but that’s a story for another time.

My point is, I didn’t just finish five years of high school. I just finished five years of high school with an all-consuming mental illness. As mental illness affects everyone at some point, I’m sure many of you already know how big of an accomplishment this is. I am proud of myself, and to everyone who has also graduated or who is currently attending school with a mental illness, you should be proud of yourself as well.

Fortunately, I am currently in a safe and stable spot in my recovery and would like to share some wisdom. Mental illness needs to be talked about. If I was in the hospital for some kind of physical ailment, you would all know. So, I think it is only fair that you know about this as well. I hope by sharing these pieces of advice someone will feel a little less lonely and a little more hopeful.

1. You do not have to be at rock bottom or have something horrible happen to you to receive help.

Mental illness affects many people for different reasons and how you feel doesn’t always have to have an accompanied explanation. In fact, you don’t even need to have a diagnosed mental illness to justify wanting to talk to someone or needing help. Remaining silent is how mental illnesses fester and turn into something unmanageable. Life is hard. Everyone needs help. Heck, even therapists have therapists.

2. Do not procrastinate getting help.

Yes, it is possible to recover from a mental illness on your own, but it is extremely unlikely. It usually doesn’t get better without help. Please reach out before things continue to get worse.

3. If the first person you reach out to doesn’t give you the response you want or need, don’t give up.

Friends and family can be a great support system, but you have to remember they are not professionally trained. I would encourage you to speak with a professional as they will be able to provide you with the tools and resources needed to begin your recovery.

4. Educate yourself.

You should talk to as many professionals as you can and do as much research as possible. The more you understand about your mental illness and how it affects you, the easier it will be for you to recover.

5. Mental health services can be extremely expensive, but please don’t let that discourage you.

Many places will offer a sliding scale where you can talk to people who are still trained, but do not have the exact same credentials as a seasoned therapist. They can still be helpful and be able to provide you with similar tools and resources.

6. Nobody will ever be able to understand exactly what you are going through.

Mental illness is extremely individualized, so sometimes you have to take what people say with a grain of salt. What helps them may not help you. It is also important to note, however, that even if someone doesn’t completely understand, they may be able to relate to some of your symptoms or experiences, which can make them a great form of support.

7. Do not feel bad for communicating your mental health needs.

If you break your arm and are unable to physically write a test, you receive extensions or are given the opportunity to illustrate what you have learned in a different way. Therefore, if you need extensions on assignments, or need to write your test in a different room to help direct your concentration, just ask. Guidance Counselors are often great advocates when it comes to your mental health and its corresponding educational needs.

8. You often have to indulge in a game of trial and error, and that’s OK.

If you opt to be on medication, it will often take a few tries to find the right kind and dosage that best suits you. This also applies to finding a counselor. Sometimes you may have to see a couple before you find one you’re comfortable with. Always keep going until you are content with your treatment plan. You will find what works for you. It may just take time.

9. Although mental illness can be fueled by external factors, it often is more internal than you think.

You often cannot completely cure a mental illness by moving to a different environment or changing who you hangout with. If these changes are positive, they definitely can help you along your recovery path, but they may not fix everything like you had hoped for, so don’t be discouraged.

10. Talk about your mental illness openly if you can.

You’ll be surprised by how many people you are secretly helping to feel less alone. You may even be surprised about how much talking about it helps you.

11. There is still a massive stigma surrounding mental health.

With this in mind, you have to recognize that many people will talk about mental health ignorantly and inappropriately and will not be empathetic or understanding to what you are going through. These people have not been provided with enough information (or the correct information). Don’t let this stop you from continuing to get help. You have to recover for yourself not for other people.

12. You are the only person who can save yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, there are so many people that can help you along the way, but you have to want to get better and you have to be willing to put in the effort.

13. Try and find something to believe in that is greater than yourself.

This doesn’t always have to be a religion. For example, I am not religious, but I believe that everything happens for a reason, and with this in mind, I find it easier to remain hopeful.

14. Create a crisis plan.

It is easier than you think to reach rock bottom, and when you are at rock bottom, rationality is not often present. With any mental illness, thinking is distorted and when you are at your lowest point this is magnified even further. It is helpful to have a plan you can refer to when you’re in this state so you can reach out to the right people and remain safe. There are many people you can talk to who can help you to create this, and you can even find outlines of these online.

15. It gets better.

It really, really does. Four years ago, or even last month, when I heard people say this I thought it was ridiculous. I thought my situation was different, and that there was absolutely no way it would get better for me. I always wondered how other people could say this not knowing my situation. How do you really know it will get better for me if you don’t even know me? How do you know I’m not the one person that it won’t get better for? You can always rework how you think, or find a solution to improve how you feel. Sometimes this takes a long time. It may even feel like it is taking forever. You must know though, the mind is a very, very powerful thing, and it is capable of so much more than you even realize.

Keep going.

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock

When I was younger, I didn’t know I was having anxiety attacks. I would wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe properly, sweat all over my body. I would tell myself it was just a nightmare. But then it started to happen when I wasn’t sleeping. It usually happened late at night, when the world got silent and I was left with nothing but my thoughts. Maybe it’s the nighttime I fear, the darkness and the unknown. I made my parents buy me a nightlight, and I would read until my eyes literally could not stay open anymore, anything to keep me busy. Then I would wake up in the morning and go about my day like everything was fine.

I was the girl with the smile on her face, and I liked it. There’s something so satisfying about being the person who can make other people laugh as soon as she walks in to the room. I was that girl. The one who saw the world as the beautiful place it is.

In fact, I still am that girl.

I promise I am.

The only difference is now I know my anxiety attacks are anxiety attacks, and they aren’t picky anymore. They find me at any time of day.

People tell me I used to be optimistic, I worry too much, it’s going to OK, the world isn’t that bad. I don’t think they mean to upset me. They just want that girl back who didn’t have a care in the world and could make light of any situation. They think their words are full of reassurance, but to me they feel like accusations.

What they don’t understand is that I still think the world is beautiful, and I am optimistic. My anxiety does not define me. It’s a part of me. It’s a part of me that comes without knocking and overstays its welcome. It’s the part of me that feels like I have frostbite on my heart. It’s the part of me that can’t help but think “What if?

I don’t go about my day with the intention of bringing other people down and taking a fun conversation and turning it dark. It’s out of my control. My anxiety is the shadow that walks in front of me. I can see it, but I can’t grab it.

I used to feel bad when someone would tell me to lighten up. Not only would I feel bad, but I would feel even more anxious. There I go again screwing it up for everyone. Good job, you have made everyone uncomfortable. Way to go. I would mumble an embarrassed “I’m sorry” and hope that everyone’s nods and shoulder shrugs were sincere.

But the thing is, I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry my anxiety doesn’t come with a pause button. I’m not sorry I’m struggling with daily panic attacks that take double my effort to try and hide. I’m not sorry my optimism can’t always be found under the weight of my worries. I’m not sorry I have anxiety.

I am who I am. Smiles and anxiety and optimism and fear.

And I am done apologizing for it.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock Images

The first time a doctor prescribed me pills for my mental problems, I didn’t take them. I didn’t even take the bottle out of the pharmacy bag. Instead, I tucked it into the basket of all my other misfit medications and half-used ointment tubes and shoved the whole thing to the back of my linen closet.

I don’t even know what it was, an antidepressant I suppose. All I know was I wasn’t sure I needed it. I wasn’t sure there was something wrong with me. Except some part of me knew there was, but for some reason, I needed someone else to verify that.

Looking back, I can see I’ve always had anxiety. I faked sick a lot in elementary school. I freaked out about being alone in the house as a teenager. I stressed uncontrollably the night before I had to take the university campus bus for the first time, but I managed.

I got through school, dated, got married, got a job, the whole business. I was fine. Kind of. That all changed when my son was born. When you’re pregnant with your first child, every parent you meet will give you the same look and tell you,“Your life is about to change.” They weren’t wrong in my case. They just didn’t know how right they were.

The thing I remember most about the day I brought my son home from the hospital was everything there seemed fake. It was like my living room was the set of a sitcom I used to watch. I felt out of place. My life wasn’t anything I recognized. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I worried all the time. All the time. When my husband’s relatives came to visit, I actually hid in the bathroom because I couldn’t stand to look anyone in the face.

I know at some point, I called my OBGYN and she told me, “Everyone feels this way at first.” I wasn’t sure about that. If everyone felt like this, then no one would ever have more than one child. Yet, I couldn’t find the words to explain what was wrong with me.

Yes, I could still get out of bed. Yes, I felt love and interest toward my baby. No, I didn’t have thoughts of harming myself or my child, but everything was still horribly wrong. She called in a prescription for me and told me if I didn’t feel better in a few days, then I should start taking it. My husband went and got it for me, but her comment had dug itself into my head.

“Everyone feels this way.”

To me that meant I was making something out of nothing. So I set out to toughen up and the medicine, whatever it was, stayed in the closet.

The next six months were bleak. Two feelings stand out to me now from that period: I wanted to run away, and I was desperate for someone to help me. At every doctor’s visit, I hoped for the pediatrician to ask me how I was doing. She never did, and I could never find the words to speak up about it.

I typed it into Google a million times instead. Lord, yes, I Googled post-partum depression and post-partum anxiety several times a week, hoping a miracle would leap through my computer screen and into my head, vanishing all my problems. Instead, I saw lists titled, “When to See a Doctor.” I never met the criteria of those lists.

I was upset, irritable, plagued with worry and doubt and filled with the sense that I hated being a mother. Yet, those were never on the list. I could still get up, nurse my child, fix my hair, go to work, make dinner, give my boy a bath and revel in how amazing he was before putting him to sleep in his crib. So by the lists I saw and my own misguided logic, I didn’t have a disorder.

Yet, still I felt like I was drowning in air. I sometimes Googled therapists in my area, but I never called. In my imagination, I could hear them thinking, “Everyone feels this way.” I didn’t even think about taking those pills that were still in the bag. They were for people with much worse problems than me.

Over time, things got better, and then, they got worse. And then better. And then worse. Eventually, I came across some helpful websites like Anxiety BC, and I bought a book on mindfulness and anxiety. I taught myself coping skills and meditation. I exercised to keep my demons at bay. I managed.  

Yet, sometimes I didn’t. Once, I almost made it to a doctor. I had forgotten to get Valentine’s cards for my son to give out to the kids in his preschool class. He came home that day with a bag of goodies from all the other kids. I cried silently to myself while I made dinner that night and spent the next week battling unending thoughts that I was failing as a parent.

Realizing that was over the edge of reason, I finally tried to call a local psychiatric group to make an appointment. However, all I got was a recorded message said I needed a doctor’s referral. The only doctor I saw regularly was my OBGYN. I didn’t go.

Then, something fortuitous happened. I moved, and at the appointed yearly time, I went to a new gynecologist for my annual exam. While I was filling out the new patient forms, there was a sheet to check off prior or current health issues, and sitting there at the bottom of the paper was a category for mental health. I looked at the little box next to anxiety, and in a moment of bravery, I checked it. I told myself the doctor wouldn’t even notice.

He did. He sat down with me and asked me about it. I told him I was basically fine, and I just had occasional problems (I was thinking of the Valentine’s incident in particular). He nodded his head, but said with anxiety, you live with it your whole life. So sometimes you don’t realize it’s there all the time.

He suggested I try taking a certain type of medication. I admit. I was still scared. Yet, he explained it to me, told me about other patients he had who were on it and what their experiences were like. He said he would call in the prescription, and I should try it.

I headed over to the pharmacy after the appointment. As I stood in line, I felt like there was a spotlight over my head, like everyone could tell what I was there for. Of course, they didn’t. I tried to laugh at the fact that I was anxious about having anxiety.

I got the script and left without a problem, but when I got back in my car I cried. I cried out of relief, and I cried out of fear. I worried somehow I was my anxiety and my anxiety was me. Because despite telling myself for six years I was fine, I knew I wasn’t. Who would I be if it all went away?

I went home and read the package details as if it would ease my fears. It didn’t. Instead, I read all the horrible things that could go wrong. On that night, I was still feeling brave, and I took one. The next day, I took another. Then, I wanted to stop taking them because they made me nauseous and restless, but I kept taking them. Once I had gotten past the fear, I was determined to find out what was on the other side.

I am happy to report the other side is a lovely place. A place where I don’t hate myself for everything I think I do wrong. A place where I don’t panic if I make a mistake. A place where a fear can cross my mind, and I let it keep going until it’s gone. And I can’t help but wonder, does everybody feel this way? I hope so. It’s a wonderful way to feel.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.