What are things you wish people knew about mental illness?
One little-known aspect of mental illness is that it affects more on a scale than a switch. There are days I feel great, and there are also days when the only thing I can bring myself to do is get out of bed to pee. But most days the thought of a panic attack haunts me in the back of my mind, or I can feel the depression weighing on my shoulders.
However, while there are many different ways that people receive support for their mental health, the most important way people have supported me is through consistency. If people want to be involved in my life, plan on staying involved. Feeling abandoned by people who have promised to stand by me is amplified during depressive episodes or anxiety attacks, making me feel even more alone. Another important way people have supported me is by validation. When you’re listening to someone, don’t give them advice (unless they ask for it) and don’t try to excuse their feelings. They feel what they feel and it’s real to them.
How did you overcome mental illness?
I don’t think that people ever overcome mental illness. Healing is a long journey and I’m definitely still in the process of finding the best ways for me to cope and heal. I know that these feelings will be present my entire life, but it’s how I choose to cope that’s important. I started to see a counselor last year. Being able to talk about my mental health with someone whose job is to listen and help without judgment was so freeing. It’s extremely hard and I’m always nervous before my appointments, but my counselor is always understanding and willing to listen. Counseling has a stigma that needs to be broken down. It’s not for “fixing problems” – it’s a place for talking without judgment, and processing through life and all its challenges in a healthy way.
I just want everyone to know that it’s okay to feel what you feel, and that you don’t have to go through it alone. Talk to a trusted friend, your small group leader, a counselor. You are lucky to be surrounded by a community embodied by Christ’s love. And if all else fails or if you just have questions, talk to me! I’d love to talk and help in any way I can.