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What 'Viral' Mental Health Posts Don't Show

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Here’s a photo of someone struggling with anxiety and depression: me. It’s not artsy; It’s just me with a black and white photo filter, because being anxious and/or depressed is not glamorous or hip.

Mental health problems are not accurately represented in a social media post of a photograph that looks like the product of an editorial photo shoot featuring a pretty girl attached to a beautifully cryptic paragraph that receives 100,000 likes and 25,000 shares.

What it is: Different for everyone who experiences it. Some of us don’t become viral and receive an outpouring of love and support when we are anxious and/or depressed. It’s lonely. Some of us are just here, trying to get through it.

For me:

It’s being reluctant to make plans for no apparent reason.

It’s not taking a second look in the mirror for months when makeup has always been my forte.

It’s disappearing.

It’s not reaching out because I don’t want to annoy anyone.

It’s feeling like things that are supposed to excite me are really just things I want to avoid.

It’s being afraid I’m incapable of “normal” human things.

It’s reliving the trauma I’ve experienced in my life and not knowing how to make it go away.

It’s not wanting to go out and have a few drinks and let go because I get panicky.

It’s acting like a control freak to avoid becoming my parents.

It’s noticing the irrational and ridiculous behavior but feeling trapped in it.

It’s repeating one negative thing I heard about myself over and over again.

It’s losing weight because you couldn’t find the motivation to make yourself a proper meal for weeks on end.

It’s doing all the things that are supposed to help to no avail.

It’s thinking about the “old” me — the person I was before my mental health fell off — and wondering if I’ll ever see her again.

It’s not even recognizing who that person is anymore.

It’s being afraid people are going to grow tired of this version of me.

Really… It’s so much more than this.

It is not something you can self-diagnose. When your mental health becomes something that seriously interferes with your ability to live life, it’s time to seek professional help. Many people struggle continuously yet are reluctant to give anything an honest shot. There’s a really negative stigma attached to therapy. Some of the absolute best tools I use when I’m anxious are things my therapist has taught me.

I avoided going to therapy and had an even tougher time accepting help from a psychiatrist because of the controversy surrounding medication. One day, I decided I needed to do something, so I did. Guess what? I’m still alive, even though I’m taking an antidepressant. My therapist doesn’t just sit there and ask how I’m feeling. I’ve been seeing her for the last three years and we’ve formed a wonderful and healthy relationship, and I urge anyone who has tried therapy before and not felt a connection like that with their therapist to keep looking. It doesn’t have to be scary to talk to someone. What it can be? Lifesaving.

Advocating for mental health is wonderful, and I’m all for it. But it’s far from beautiful.

Image via contributor.

Originally published: January 9, 2019
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