Unfortunately, as someone who struggles with mental health, I know all too well that mental illness is not limited to one month a year. But May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To bring awareness to mental health for months to come, I want to start sharing my own stories, lessons, and advice on my mental health journey because you are not alone.
Reading this, or consuming any material on mental health, is not a substitute for seeking professional and medical help. I am not a medical professional, just a human being sharing (Mental Health Hotline 1-866-903-3787).
In April. I was at the Taylor Swift Era's tour, already a crazy way to start this, and yes, it was one of the best nights of my life (even with the stomach flu). One of our surprise songs (which, if you are unfamiliar, each night Taylor plays two songs unique to that show) was, this is me trying. It's not a song I've listened to more than a dozen or so times, but when she played that song, I swear she was singing to me, just me, in a crowd of 70,000+ people.
Before the song, Taylor started with a speech. I will sum up but probably butcher it (you can probably find it online; it was AZ Night 2). She explained that looking around the stadium that night, she realized that everyone in the room of tens of thousands of people, every single person, is struggling with something, and we are all just trying our best.
The song talks about someone struggling with mental health, specifically addiction, and how every day is a battle, and they're just trying to make it through. That being said, trying never feels enough when you are in the thick of it. Hearing that song live was like listening to it for the first time. It summed up how I have been feeling and had been trying for the past 6+ months.
As someone with anxiety and depression, I've always had a mixed cocktail of the two; my anxiety makes me exhausted, and my brain doesn't stop, which can lead to depressive episodes. The last few months have been the most painful I've ever experienced. I won't get into details because it doesn't matter; pain for us all is relative, and as Taylor says, we are all trying.
That was a roundabout way of saying I have been struggling to figure out what advice on DD to give when I have zero clue what I am doing as a depressed twenty-five-year-old. Saying that out loud eventually made me realize having things 'figured out' is not why I started this blog. I started this blog to create a place for people to feel less alone, so if you are currently struggling with your mental health, have in the past, or do in the future, read this and remember it's going to be okay.
'It's okay not to be okay'
The saying, you have to have a breakdown to have a breakthrough, has always been important to me. I think the first thing I did that was productive in getting my sh*t back together was admitting that I didn't have my sh*t together. It seems easy, but it's a huge first step. Tell someone you love you aren't okay, and then take action. For me, I got back into therapy. Warning: I am still working on finding a therapist I like, but I did some sessions and tried. Huge W.
Therapy may not be the answer for you, or maybe you are not ready, but taking any action, as I said, can be your first step to figuring out what you need in your mental health journey. As humans, we have a warped perception that it is weak to admit defeat or to need help, but that is not true. It is actually the strongest thing you can do.
'No' is a complete sentence.
I learned about this really cool concept recently called setting boundaries. Hopefully, you read that sarcastically. Maybe boundaries are something normal people are good at, but I am terrible at them. I am a people pleaser, but I've started protecting my peace by setting them. I include this as advice because it's changed my life and, of course in turn, my mental health.
Before the revelation that 'no' can be a full sentence, I have always tried to think about what other people need before myself. This year I needed to make a change for my own mental health, so I have started asking myself questions instead:
What do I need?
What do I want?
What is best for me?
When you begin making decisions with your best interest at heart, no one else's, decisions start to feel less paralyzing, and like anything, with practice, it gets easier. Sadly, I had to get to a bad place mentally, to realize this, but it's a lesson that came out of necessity when I needed it most.
It isn't about being selfish, or maybe it is, but we should rebrand that word. Selfishness can be a good thing because I genuinely don't think you care for the people you love unless you take care of yourself first.
'What makes me happy?'
This one seems so simple, but it's a massive part of myself that I lost for a long time. I was going through the motions of life and not really living. You can do that for a while, but it is never sustainable.
For me, it was a lesson that went hand in hand with learning to set boundaries, but you have to put your own happiness above everything else because if you don't have your happiness, what do you have?
It seems complicated, yet simple, but go back to the question, why?
Why did I start this project?
Why did I love that hobby as a kid so much?
Asking why can get you pretty far.
I always said I wanted to write to make people feel less alone, but at the crux of that statement was me feeling deeply alone due to my own mental health struggles. So, I am getting back to writing for no reason other than that- I encourage you to do the same in whatever aspect makes you happy,
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is, to be honest. Tell the people you love that you love them. I had to learn through experience that you genuinely do not know what someone is going through until sometimes it is too late.
You will never regret telling someone you care about them; in return, their saying it back makes you feel less alone too.
Humans want to feel love and acceptance, but our fatal flaw may just be not knowing how to always show it. Cultivating and growing existing friendships and relationships with people who care about me and accept me for who I am, has been life-changing. Find your people; they are out there, and don't settle for anything less or an inauthentic version of yourself.
Okay- that's all for now. I don't have some insane revelation to finish this post off with. I am still figuring this out myself, but I hope to continue the conversation.
Mental health isn't about a month for corporate charity or awareness; it's about ending the stigma so that we can help each other and talk to each other because we are all trying our best, and this is me trying.