To the Mentor Who Made Me Feel Safe Talking About Mental Illness
To my mentor,
You could never understand the impact you’ve had on my life. We have known each other for little more than a year, but you have quickly become one of my closest confidants. When we first met, I already knew you well by reputation. I was instantly drawn to your confidence, empathy and passion. You constantly reminded those around you they could always come to you with their problems. Usually those words don’t mean a lot. But you seemed so genuine, like you really cared, and I believed you. I started coming to you with struggles only a couple months after we met.
We started getting together for coffee every month. Even when the meetings were short because of time constraints, you always managed to have an incredibly deep conversation with me. Our honest and open discussions of mental illness were so important to me as my own struggles have gotten progressively worse. Even when I wasn’t outright telling you that I was having these issues, you helped me understand that depression, anxiety and mental illness in general was nothing to be ashamed of. You broke my walls and I always knew I could trust you.
For the first time, my mental illness didn’t feel like something I had to hide.
The past couple months have been especially rough for both of us. But you have been there for me every single terrifying step of the way. You have talked me through several episodes of anxiety, depression and even panic attacks — texting me for hours in order to calm and reassure me. I’d never before felt comfortable texting people when I was struggling, but you never made me feel like a burden or told me I was being dramatic.
In a time where I feel attacked from all sides, you made me realize the difference between guidance and emotional manipulation. You reason with me and focus my anxious brain by asking potent and important questions. You constantly encourage me and make me feel wanted, strengthening me against the attacks of depression. Instead of shying away, you sacrifice politeness and bluntly ask questions that make me squirm, but keep me safe. And I appreciate it more that words can say.
I could never have made it through the past couple months if it weren’t for your constant support. I hope any person who mentors younger people can learn to follow your amazing example, because as you have told me, mental illness is an issue that needs to be talked about and taken seriously.
I love you so much and I am so thankful for your incredible friendship.
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Thinkstock photo via Rupert King