It's here.. Mental Health Month is here!
May is here.
This post is going to be vulnerable because I am using photographs to tell the story.
I chose 3 pictures of myself in order to discuss mental health, and what it means to me.
Did I pick the best pictures of me? Ha. Nope. (As your eyes have already glanced down)
I chose the 3 pictures because of the memories they brought up for me.
I wish I could say I don't care what people think about me. Sometimes, I don't. In a way, though, we all do. We all do care. I care while writing this post, and I will care after. But when does the meaning of "normal" fall out of the dictionary? When does "beautiful" mean something you cannot visibly see? When does the internet become a safe place, a realistic view of what is, and not just what we choose to portray?
Did I send it? No. I kept it for me. Sometimes I think I took this photo to show myself "this. this is what you've become. this is who you are." and sometimes I think I took this picture because I had hope. [What?] I had hope that things would get better, and I knew I would have this picture to look back at and see how far I've come?
and then I have my awful reason. Maybe I took this picture, in case someone were to find it. Then they would know how badly I had been hurting when nobody seemed to understand.
The story at the time this was taken. It was November 2015. I am standing in my bathroom. I would go in there a lot, lock the door, sit on the rug, and lean up against the cabinet, falling apart, questioning every piece of my life. I hadn't showered. My hair looks greasy. I hadn't been taking care of myself. You can see mascara under my eyes. That was me trying. My face is swollen from tears. At school I would sit alone in the hallways and dissociate. I would bang my head against the lockers when nobody was watching. I would leave class to cry in a bathroom stall. I would text my mom at work, obsessively, throughout the day. Leaving her concerned.
I was sick.
I was pale.
I went days on end without an hour of sleep.
And after this picture? I most likely had wiped my eyes, washed my face, and opened the door again as if nothing had happened.
That is what happens when you have a mental health condition. You are just like the girl who decided to show her smartphone what her Instagram doesn't see. When you walk out those doors, there is no room for the what is expected of you. You get dressed, you go to work, you blend in with society, and you smile- because god forbid someone sees you not acting "okay."
And nobody knows that the one who smiles, and shows up, had reached their breaking point the night before.
I think when people see the words "mental health awareness" they think about depression, anxiety, or just the word "mental illness." I think many forget that mental health awareness, includes them too. It includes all in the topic of discussion. There are the sides of pain, the sides of fighting, but there are also those sides that do have pure genuine smiles. And that is an example of mental health too.
People may see me now and forget I have an anxiety disorder, and still struggle with depression at times. At my school counseling center, I take a mini questionnaire as their check-in. The numbers always confirm that I have severe anxiety, but when my counselor addresses it, she learns that those results are my constant. She reads "severe anxiety" but I say, "yes I'm anxious but I've been worse." My heart always races for no reason. I always am afraid I am going to have a panic attack in public. Anxiety is a part of my daily life, but I go about my life despite that. My mental health is also:
showing self respect,
snorting when I laugh, and then laughing even more!
It is the self-talk inside my head saying "this too shall pass."
It is advocating for myself by going to therapy.
mental health awareness IS self-awareness.
We can all feel sad, glad, mad, and we have the right to feel whatever we feel.
Mental health awareness is important because our minds are powerful, and fragile all at once.
Everyone deserves support, care, and treatment.
And unfortunately we still live in a world with oppression and stigma.
Unfortunately many forget there is always more to a person.
And unfortunately not everyone receives support, care, and treatment.
- But we do have a month dedicated to spreading awareness. A month so we CAN talk about it.
It affects everyone.
At times we have to ignore the fact that we care what people may think, and we must be vulnerable to get the attention the world needs.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.