“I am ready to die.”

To the naked eye it’s a starling line, a confession that no one wishes to see. The questions that come to mind immediately are “why?” “what happened” and the statement dished out with zero evidence, “but you have so much to live for.” The questions and statement are always meant with the best intentions. I appreciate that.

I’ve said that line plenty of times before.

I’ve meant that line plenty of times before.

I’ve said that line within the past two weeks.

I’ve meant that line within the past two weeks.

Today is #BellLetsTalk day and I am here for it. I am so, so here for it. I am so tired of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, surrounding sharing experiences, treating people like they are weaker for what they have gone through. In my eyes, if you have a mental illness and/or had a mental illness and are still with us, you are a fucking warrior. You are fighting every single day and you should be lauded for that, not shunned.

I’ve shared my story plenty of times, but I always delete it. I’ve tweeted please for help, but I always delete them. I’ve drafted text messages to friends, but I always delete them. I’ve sat home alone, shivering in the dark, having not eaten in a day, wondering why no one is there. Wondering where I went. No one can be there if you aren’t there yourself.

In my life, at points I have been diagnosed with: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Depression. Sometimes I dealt with them at the same time, other times one would weigh on me while the others lingered. I do not feel the need to disclose what I am going through now. It’s not relevant. What is relevant is that I am here.

Two weeks ago I texted a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in a while “I’m going to therapy tomorrow and telling my therapist I don’t want to live once I leave his office.” I didn’t want to send it, I didn’t want to say it, but I knew I needed someone to know. I needed someone to see past my smiles and jokes and see what was going on. Two different friends told me that same day “but you were doing so well.” I was. That changed. I knew it was changing but couldn’t stop it. Sometimes you can’t do a thing. That’s when you need people the most.

I know that you can’t expect people to see what’s going on if you don’t share. It’s unfair, the naked eyes are some of the most easily fooled creatures on this planet.

So I told her. She had never spoken to me before about mental illnesses, but she spoke to my for hours. She drew up a game plan. She took all of my problems and worked on solutions for them. When I turned down solutions, she told me she was here for me. When I felt like I was being a burden, she assured me I was not. When I apologized, she reminded me it was out of my control. She asked me simply to do the best I could do.

So I did.

I went to therapy and told my therapist how I’d been feeling. He drew up a game plan. We took it day by day. I remembered all I’d been through, I saw text messages from people who now knew. I felt lighter.

I don’t know why I felt a stigma against my own experiences prior to this year. I don’t know why I won’t share this on Facebook, or why I can’t tell some of my closest friends what I am going through. What I’ve been through. I don’t know how any of this works, truly.

I got a wave tattooed on my arm to represent that all things pass, good and bad. I tried dropping out of High School, but each stretch I didn’t think I could get through passed. I tried dropping out of college, but each stretch I didn’t think I could get through passed. I wanted to die when I suffered daily panic attacks for two weeks in November of 2014, but it passed. Everything has passed. Everything will pass.

People have it worse than me, and others have it better. That does not change what I experience.

To the people who have it worse, I wish to say to you that I am here. I am so fucking here. I cannot express in words how fucking here I am for you. I will never lie to you and pretend everything is okay, or that I can tell you for sure that everything will be okay, or that I understand what you’re going through if I have not been through it myself.

What I will do is be here to listen, truly listen. I will hear you and I will do everything in my power to be helpful. If that means being a soundboard, sure. If that means being an amateur therapist, I will give it my best shot. I merely wish for you to know that you are not alone in this world. This world is lonely enough, you do not need to feel like you have no one to turn to. I am here.

My favorite message I’ve received in the last month: “I just booked my first appointment for therapy.” I received that from three different people in the past month. Each time the world felt a little less heavy. It matters. You matter.

To the people who have it better, I wish to say your experiences are not universal. That does not mean your problems are insignificant, and it does not mean you should feel guilty. You can have things bad, I understand that. This past August I was forced out of my home and onto friends couches for a month, and that had absolutely nothing to do with mental illness. I understand you can have your own problems. Even if it’s as small as having a bad day, it still matters. I do not feel any less hungry when I haven’t eaten in a while because there are people who don’t have food readily available. You should not feel any less sad because others have greater problems. Your problems are just as valid.

But please, please do your best to be kind. Be patient. Be understanding. Be present, god, please be present. You never know who does/doesn’t need you and when, and while you don’t owe anything to anyone but yourself, you can make such a tremendous difference just by existing in people’s lives. Remind people you care. Reach out to people. Remember that someone was upset and check if they’re still okay.

Just be kind. Just know that your experiences are not universal, and while you may not understand what people are going through, that doesn’t make it any less real. You can do a lot of damage telling people “that doesn’t sound very realistic,” or “that’s stupid” when they share what they’re going through. My own Father told me he “doesn’t believe in mental illness” when I was depressed last year. I didn’t get the help I needed. It was dangerous.

That same Father now has a therapist and regularly speaks to me about my issues. He adapted, he learned. Just try to adapt. Try to learn. Try to be present. Be an ally, be a friend. No one wants to go through what they are going through. No one wishes to be a burden or a pain. No one wishes to be upset.

Understand that not all problems have solutions. Not all illnesses have medications, and not all bodies react well to all types of medication. I currently cannot treat one section of my illness due to my body failing to respond appropriately to the medication. I cannot take pills because of anxiety, which is awfully ironic because the pills would be for anxiety. Luckily companies make medication in other forms, but that’s not the case for all medications. Regardless, not all problems have solutions.

Some things just happen, and sometimes people just need to know they are not alone. Please remember that.

To all, please remember you are not alone. I am here. I am so here.

I am Brandon Cohen, and I am mentally ill. I am not weaker than you, I do not deserve your pity. I am strong, I am here, and I am fighting each and every day. I am proud of who I am.

I may delete this, I may suffer a setback, I may find myself having the best days of my life. I have absolutely no idea what the future holds. But that sentence remains no matter what happens next.

I am Brandon Cohen, and I am mentally ill. I am not weaker than you, I do not deserve your pity. I am strong, I am here, and I am fighting each and every day. I am proud of who I am.

#BellLetsTalk

You can contact me on twitter @brandonco4 in my DMs, or email me at brcohen 04 at gmail dot com. I will respond to anyone at any time regardless of if we’ve spoken before. Here

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