What I Wish I Was Told About Mental Illness

I used to be a high-achieving student, an athlete, an extrovert, a people person. I used to live six hours away from home attending my dream school. I used to go out with friends all the time, laugh, and have fun. I used to enjoy my life. Used to.

I’m sitting in my bedroom at my home while on a mental health medical leave of absence from school. As I’m here alone, shaking and crying and trying to cope with the anxiety consuming me, I’m realizing there are a lot of things I wish were said to me. I longed for understanding and acceptance, for an explanation, and for an ounce of hope that this pain would subside. I’m going to write the words I needed to hear, so somebody else can hear them and feel a bit better.

1. It’s OK to be hurting and to be scared and to feel lost. Mental illness can be painful and confusing and overwhelming. Your fears and your feelings are valid, and anyone who judges you because of it doesn’t belong in your life.

2. Take care of yourself. This is so, so important. If you don’t feel like you can handle class because your racing mind and pounding heart kept you up all night and your lack of sleep is catching up to you, do not go to class. If your friends invited you out and say you never do anything anymore, but you know going to that party will cause a huge panic attack, stay in.

3. You will learn who your true friends are. Keep them close. If they are good friends, they will understand you are struggling and be patient with you. They will continue to invite you so you feel welcome and not make you feel awful when you just can’t do it.

4. There are people who will walk right out of your life, stop talking to you, and stop checking on you. Know it is not your fault and you are not a bad person because of your struggles.

5. Most people only care about themselves. It’s frustrating when you feel like nobody is checking on you or trying to understand or they just don’t care. Even when you put yourself out there and open up, people still will brush you off. Remember who has been there and who has cared and don’t let them go.

6. You don’t need to prove yourself to anybody. So many people attempt to minimize mental health issues and pretend they’re not real or significant. Their opinions do not matter. You are the only person who really understands what you are going through. If they choose to belittle it, it does not mean that you are not struggling.

7. Forgive yourself. It’s not your fault that this is happening to you; you did not ask for this illness. Mental illness is as real of a struggle as any physical illness. Try not to get too upset when you have to miss an event, a class, or a party. There will be plenty more you can go to when you feel you are ready.

8. There is hope. There exists so many different types of therapy, medicines, people to talk to, and places to go for help. Even when you think you have tried it all and nothing helps, keep trying because one day something will work and you will be so glad you didn’t give up.

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

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Thinkstock photo by Antonio Guillem

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