On the Inside
May is national mental health awareness month. In honor of that, I want to share a bit more of my journey to mental health and stability. I first started having trouble with anxiety and depression in middle school. I would get so stressed out in class - most often about reading aloud - that I would sweat through the armpits of my shirts... and then spend the rest of the day refusing to raise my hands because I didn't want anyone to see my sweat stains. Social anxiety started young for me... I was friends with everyone but, really, friends with no one. You know how that goes? I was paranoid of people thinking I was weird. The boy I had a crush on was a cool kid (of course haha) and knowing that he would never have an interest in my band-kid, good-grade, tomboy self just accelerated the negative opinion I had of myself. Seriously, my middle school experience could have been the starting part of one of those crappy teen romance movies. However, I didn't suddenly become the cool girl, prom queen, happily-ever-after that those movies always portray. I started having really dark thoughts in maybe 7th or 8th grade. I wrote sad, twisted, and sometimes violent poetry. I started having issues with suicidal idolization. I got really, really, really low. My spirit just kinda died going into high school. I started getting severe, traumatizing nightmares. I became bulimic. I cut myself. My guidance counselor thought I was on drugs, but really I was just sleep deprived and suffering mentally and emotionally. All the while though, I kept straight A's in school, I kept a smile on my face with friends... and I told no one just how terrible I felt. Getting healthy has taken fifteen years. FIFTEEN. And I still struggle sometimes. I still lapse into depression. I still have panic attacks. But my overall health is much more balanced, my mental state is fair better than it has been for a long, long time. I'm not looking for your sympathies or for your applause by telling you this... I'm looking for understanding and for movement forward. I'm tired of mental illnesses be treated with less respect and severity than physical illnesses. I'm tired of people assuming that if you look happy on the outside, that means you're happy on the inside. It's mental health awareness month, so give yourself a once over. See how you're fairing. Make sure you're taking care of yourself. And then, if you can - because it is desperately important - ask your family members, ask your friends, ask your coworkers, if they're ok. Ask if they're ok... and be trustworthy and sincere enough in your questioning that if they aren't - if they need your help - that they can ask for it. Thing don't change over night. People don't get heal at the drop of the hat. But step by step we will make this world better if only we are willing to admit and verbalize our troubles, and accept and aid those around us. Together. Simultaneously. Just care. Care about yourself. Care about the people around you. Care about the world being a better place in the future. You do that and you will watch things change for the better.