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When You Look at Me, You Might Not Know I’m Struggling With Mental Illness


A common misconception around mental health is that you need to be completely incapacitated and at rock bottom to get help. To be honest, this is why I put off going to the doctors and seeing a psychologist for so long. I didn’t think it was bad enough, and honestly, I believed that if I got help, someone else who had it worse than me wouldn’t be able to, and I didn’t want to do that to anyone.

I now realize this was a bit of an excuse on my behalf. I was just too anxious to get help. Let me tell you — you deserve to get help if you’re struggling. It doesn’t matter how bad it is. I now know that, and that is the one thing I want everyone else to know.

You see, when you look at me, you might not necessarily see someone struggling. You might see someone who looks a bit nervous, shy and quiet, but chances are, you have no idea what is happening in my brain. You cannot fully see my anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and self-harm at a glance. You probably think of me as someone who is “high-functioning” and couldn’t possibly be struggling. I have always been the straight A student who is involved in everything — the one on the committees and the sports teams. The one who volunteers and can travel the world alone. The one who is super organized and is always there for everyone else. The one who can say a speech in front of 200 people without being phased.

I am all these things. But I also have severe anxiety and OCD.

Lately, things have got on top of me, and I wouldn’t necessarily say I am still “high-functioning.” Lately, the bar has had to be set a bit lower — lets go outside once today, lets do 10 minutes of study, lets try and eat something, lets try and stay safe and alive, lets try to stay out of the hospital. I’m down to one course at university and my current goal is to do something sociable at least once a week. But you see, I think that less than 10 people have the slightest clue that I’m not just “a little bit nervous” anymore. I think this is something that is so important to remember: no one knows what someone else might be going through.

So many people struggle with mental health issues, but you often can’t tell who these people are. I’ve struggled with mental illness, and most of the time, I probably seem like a person who has it all together.

So just remember, don’t assume. If someone is struggling, don’t dismiss them if their life seems perfect from your perspective. And if you are struggling, but are saying things like I said for a long time like, “I must be fine because I can do X, Y and Z,” don’t try to push through it alone. The sooner you get help the better. If I had gotten help and seen someone while I was still at school, I think my life would have been remarkably different. This is why we’ve got to keep talking openly about mental health, so people know that they don’t have to do it all alone.

Because mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

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Lead image via contributor