Today’s going to be a little bit different than my regular posts. It’s honestly the scariest post I’ve ever written, because of the fear of judgement. I really want all of my readers to know me on a personal level so you can connect with me (and not just my outfits), and it’s something that’s apart of my daily life! This is something that I don’t often speak openly about, but when I am asked, I am more than willing to tell my story and my passion towards raising awareness toward mental health.
May is Mental Health awareness month, and this cause is near and dear to my heart.
There are so many people that suffer from some kind of mental illness, whether it be occasional bouts, or severe cases. I feel like in the United States, there is a huge stress on physical health, but we often overlook mental health. We always hear about how awful cancer is to go through, but what we don’t hear about is how hard it is to suffer from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. We don’t hear about how people with mental illness live with it for their whole lives, and sometimes it’s nearly impossible to live a normal life. All we seem to hear from the media is that people with mental illnesses are “freaks” or “crazy”. We are taught by pop culture that the only people with mental illness are the murders, the crazy homeless people muttering to themselves, or people that try to break into the White House because God told them to.
The reason why this cause is so very important to me is that I suffer from mental illness myself. Now before you go on and judge me like I’m a crazy person, let me explain something. People that suffer from any degree of mental illness are not “crazy” (or for that matter psycho, weird, scary, or any other adjective that’s misused). People with mental illness for the most part look like your everyday average joe…because what they are going through can’t be seen on the outside. The people that suffer from mental illness might be a family member, a coworker, a member of your church, or someone you see at the grocery store.
Today I’d like to share a little bit about my journey through my mental illness. Hopefully by sharing this personal part of my life, more of you that suffer from this yourself won’t feel like you’re alone.
Ever since I can remember, I knew there was something off about me. I would have mood swings and have no idea why. I wouldn’t enjoy activities, or have motivation sometimes, and I was often exhausted. Most people probably would account those feelings toward the fact that I was on a club swim team and in AP classes. I was under a lot of stress, but it wasn’t all from that. I always knew something was a little off.
Fast forward to my freshman year of BYU. I was on the swim team, and really enjoying being on my own. After a couple of months though, something changed in me. I couldn’t get out of bed. I was overly stressed about little things, and I didn’t really want to interact with my team or friends. It was then that I knew I needed to talk to someone. I spoke with our sports mental health counselor about it and after a session with him, he diagnosed me with depression and anxiety.
This was scary for me. Mostly because I grew up hearing and seeing on TV that people with mental illness are chained to a table, given a bunch of drugs, and forever live in a mental hospital. I didn’t want that to be my life! The more I learned about mental illness and mental health, the more I understood that it’s actually pretty normal to have a mental illness. I wasn’t alone! That’s when I knew I needed to help educate people about it and help them to understand that it’s a health ailment that people have to deal with, just like diabetes, arthritis, etc.
Ever since being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I really have tried my hardest to live a normal life. And for the most part, I do! Sometimes it’s really hard for me to have energy to complete all the tasks that I need to do. Sometimes I have anxiety attacks when I least expect it. And sometimes I can’t control my emotions because my anxiety and depression are out of control that day. But for the most part, I’m happy and I live a normal life. I’m normal! I just have something hard that I get to deal with.
Thankfully, I have an amazing support system around me that helps me get through my bad days. My main cheerleader is my wonderful husband. It’s been hard for him to understand what I’m going through, but his simple encouragement really helps. I also have been able to receive counseling from mental health professionals and doctors to help me navigate through what I’m feeling. This has helped a ton! I know there is a negative stigma for seeing a counselor, but there shouldn’t be. If you need help, there is nothing wrong with seeing a counselor. That’s what they are there for.
If you suffer from mental illness, or know someone that does…you are not alone. Don’t feel like you’re a freak because you have to deal with something like this. That is what awareness is all about. I hope that by speaking out and sharing my story today, I’ve taught you something about mental health, and that people with mental health issues are all around you. And don’t feel shy about asking questions about depression and anxiety. I am very open about it and would love to explain it more if you’d like!
Also, here is one of my FAVORITE talks of all time from General Conference that’s about mental illness: