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When I Realized the Voices of Depression and Anxiety Won't Completely Stop

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I’m a 22-year-old college student suffering from a mental illness.

In fact, I’m one of approximately one in five adults in the U.S. who experiences mental illness in a given year. Out of the 18 percent of adults with a mental health condition, I’m a part of the 41 percent of adults in the U.S that received mental health services in the past year.

Despite how common mental health awareness has become thanks to social media, legislation and millennials extraordinary need for transparency and authenticity within our society, it’s still a taboo subject among day-to-day conversations. No one wants to be the friend with the mental health disorder, the friend that everyone feels like they have to walk on eggshells around, the burden.

Including myself.

So what does the one adult with a mental illness out of the five do? Nothing. You do nothing because your depression tells you no one cares, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. Then anxiety tells you it would draw too much attention to yourself, you would become a burden to the people around you, and besides you’re probably overreacting.

Anxiety tells you that you should be terrified of speaking up, and depression tells you that you have nothing important to say anyway. Depression tells you there’s no good reason to leave the house, and then anxiety sides with depression and says it’s too risky anyway. What if you say something wrong, what if you do something wrong? Every single day it’s a constant series of internal battles between two extremes and because it’s inside your head, it feels like the war will never end.

It’s hard to explain these battles to those around you who don’t understand how a mental illness works because anxiety says it all just sounds like sad excuses anyway. I’m not being lazy, I’m depressed. I’m not eating because I’m not hungry, I’m not eating because anxiety told me not to. Of course, depression says nothing matters anyway, you’re worthless so just stop.

It’s hard to realize your mind is betraying you. That you are not your mental illness. You are you. Now, who you are is up to you to figure out because depression and anxiety can tell you all your fears and irrational thoughts are your real thoughts, but you have to realize those are not you. It’s depression and anxiety speaking out so loudly, your voice is drowned out inside of your own mind. This is when you reach a breaking point. You look in the mirror and realize you are missing and nothing is left of you but your two mental illnesses.

That’s when a couple of little pills and a person to listen comes into your life and helps you dissect every thought, every fear and every hesitation into separate piles. They’re not neat or constant piles, sometimes they get mixed up and muddled together, but with time you learn how to contain them, build better boxes to put them and eventually learn how to throw things out.

“It might take months for the medicine to work,”the psychiatrist says. So you keep taking pills, making your appointments, processing battles and tell yourself you’re making progress. All while the war in your head continues, they can’t promise you it would completely stop.

It won’t completely stop.

One day you look at yourself in the mirror and see something you’ve never seen before.

It’s you. But it’s not the you who you recognize from childhood, or at least before your two friends made themselves at home in your head. It’s you, your mental illness and a realization.

It won’t completely stop.

But, this isn’t a death sentence, this isn’t a sad realization you won’t ever be normal. It’s a realization that you can be you with a mental illness and that’s OK. And because you are you with a mental illness. Just like you tell people your favorite color, it’s OK to tell people your mental illness.

I’m Sierra, I have depression and anxiety.

Follow this journey on Sierra’s blog.

Originally published: July 20, 2016
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