Why I Choose to Be Open About My Mental Health
If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
It’s 2021 and we’ve come a long way with how we talk about mental health, but it’s very clear there is much more work that needs to be done. In this digital age of sharing every aspect of our lives, it can seem like everybody has it
together. Camera rolls across the world are filled with that perfect shot – and the 37 others taken before it that society has made us feel aren’t good enough. To go against this aesthetic of a picture-perfect life can be downright scary, though sharing the absolute truth of what happens behind the lens may just be what we really need.
Discussing mental health, and my own journey in particular, is a decision that wasn’t always easy but one I knew was right. I never hesitated.
OK, that’s a sliiiight lie.
On the outside, I always seemed “normal.” I lived in a friendly neighborhood and went to a good school where I was on the high honor roll. I took dance
lessons, played the clarinet, and dabbled in sports. I had friends, two parents
(until age 15), and I was healthy – I had aspirations, dreams, expectations, and all the means to make them come true.
But deep down inside in some dark corner of my brain, I knew I was off. However, no one else during my childhood seemed off like I was. No one talked about therapy. No one was on meds – if they were, it was their best kept secret. Even the teachers never addressed it. To admit something felt wrong would disturb the balance our seemingly perfect little community had.
I will say that my mom was very ill mentally, something I didn’t understand until after she passed, so her behavior wasn’t attributed to mental illness in my mind yet. In fact, when I did make the connection, I felt even more compelled to not become like her. That was when I knew for sure that whatever demons lived inside my head were never to be explored.
But as many of us know, that’s not how things work.
I ventured into the world of casual therapy in 2011, started Zoloft that summer
for social anxiety, and absolutely flourished for a bit. But my problems ran
much deeper and by 2014 I was a mess.
At the beginning of 2015, a few days into the new year, I had just enough presence of mind left to realize I was “losing it.” I thought about my mom and wondered if her story would soon become mine. I didn’t know what was wrong with me but I truly felt psychotic, questioning everything and believing I was on the brink of insanity. That fear fueled me to take action and the next thing I knew I was being driven to a psych ward in the back of an ambulance. The only thing comforting me as they walked me into the unit was that it had been my decision.
My whole life I was ashamed that something was wrong with me – despite having the privilege of resources at my fingertips. The only reason my mental state had gotten so bad was because of that shame.
I wasn’t even 10 when I had my first suicidal thought. I was almost 23 when I
finally sought real help. Waiting so long unleashed the demons I had kept
locked away for all those years, allowing them to completely take over and
almost take my beating heart with.
I would like to say I was brave and never felt scared to share these things but it
would be a lie. Quora has become my main platform to talk about my experiences and I remember the first time I ever wrote an answer acknowledging my mental health – it was so scary. I was worried people would think less of me, that people I went to school with would find it, even future
employers. My anxiety told me I would be cast out of society and be forced to
live as a pariah.
And then I realized that is exactly why I needed to do it. For my younger self, for my current self, for all the people I met in the hospital who were incapable
of having a voice. Hiding did nothing except give power to those demons.
But today, I’m the one in control.
Photo credit: PIKSEL/Getty Images