It Starts With Yourself.

How I deal with the voices in my head.

This might make you cringe. This might make you hate me. This might make you love me. It might help you understand me. It might make you see me as another statistic, label. It will definitely help you create judgements about me; a person you haven’t met, will probably not meet, will probably never meet. I write this knowing that my voice is not alone in this matter. It will probably get lost in the thousands of other voices that are screaming their struggle on the matter as well. I’m okay with that, as long as it prompts you to listen to all of the sides of the experience, because they deserve to be heard.

What do you think when you think of the word ‘depression’? What do you think when you think of the word ‘anxiety’? How about ‘mental illness’? When I think of all of those words, ‘mental illness’ is the one that sticks out the most to me. ‘Depression’ and ‘anxiety’ all fall under ‘mental illness’, yet why does ‘mental illness’ feel so much heavier/severe than the others?

I might attempt an answer to that. Going through school, I feel as if there was a huge spike of people saying things like ‘Oh my god, that movie was so sad. I’m, like, depressed now,’ or ‘Dude, I’m having the worst anxiety over this exam next period’. I’m sure at the time, those people really did feel a brief, intense feeling of sadness, or panic. I’m definitely guilty of saying the same things too so I could let my friends know I emphasized. When you have a lot of people saying certain words like ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’, it becomes part of the norm. Honestly you, as a functioning human being, will naturally feel bouts of anxiety and depression in your life. You will also feel waves of happiness, excitement and lots of other feelings that make being human a wonderful roller-coaster ride.

I’m in college, and it’s impossible to find anybody that isn’t experiencing some slight anxiety over something. Maybe it’s over their unfinished, late homework assignment? Or a phone call they’re waiting to hear back from.

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Would they consider that mental illness? Probably not. The stigma itself is something most people shrink back from.

I noticed that depression is sometimes portrayed in media as beautiful. I see a lot of pictures that seem to romanticize the scars on the wrist, the bags under the eyes, and the messy bed-head from laying in bed too much. There is a desirable quality in looking the right kind of messy.

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What the pictures don’t show you is the stench of your clothes from not having the energy or motivation to put a load of laundry in. It lays, stuck in your skin, with grease stains. It doesn’t show your skin and hair becoming greasy from lack of care because you can’t even be bothered to drag yourself to the shower and attempt to have good personal hygiene for once. It shows you laying in bed, not moving for hours, gorging yourself in shame while never taking your eyes off of the TV. There is nothing beautiful about this.

It’s actually kind of boring, after a while. I can definitely see why people can consider depression as laziness. You want to scream and shout in disgust at yourself: GET UP, YOU PIECE OF SHIT! Because you hate what you’ve become, that you’ve let it get this far. All you have to do is get up and move.

So why was that so impossible for me? My parents are people where they regard mental illness as an excuse. “Everybody gets sad,” my dad scoffed. “You just gotta keep working and move forward!” “People who claim they have depression or anxiety are just being weak,” My mom sighed to me, “They just want pills,” Growing up, I ended up having to accept the same mentality as them. Believing that I could overcome whatever negative feeling came at me didn’t make the feelings stop, however.

In fact, they seemed to never go away. I was overwhelmed every morning as soon as I opened my eyes to the minute I finally resigned myself to bed. Even when I was ‘safe’ in my bed, the thoughts wouldn’t stop racing in my head, keeping me up for hours.

You’re pathetic.

You suck at literally everything.

You need to work hard, you fat, pathetic loser, so you don’t let your parents down. AGAIN.

It is constant and draining. I kept going on though, because no matter how shitty I felt about myself, there is always someone out there that has it worse so what right do I really have to complain about anything in my life?

Not only did I have to try to ignore those thoughts, I also had to deal with this overwhelming sense of dread every time I tried to do something out of my comfort zone. I would skip class once when I sick, and then the thought of going to school to face my teacher about the work I would miss would literally make me shake for fear she would think I was stupid, or lying about being sick. If my friends invited me out, I would get a pit in my stomach thinking about how I would fail to entertain them and how they would inevitably get bored of me, never talking to me again. I spent my days feeling sick from worrying so much about what others thought of me to downright ashamed of who I was.

There is nothing scarier in the world than realizing not even yourself, who is supposed to know you best, loves you for who you are. It’s a sense of isolation which turns into desolation.

This article is not supposed to be about informing you about depression, anxiety or any other sort of mental illness. I know you all know what it is. There’s still a stigma out there about it, but at least people are becoming more open about talking about it. I’m sure people all have their own minor or major instances of experiencing mental illness, whether or not it is their own or someone they know. I apologize if this was a trigger to read. My point of the article was to describe how important it is to express how you’re feeling, and what I do when it gets too much for me.

Alana Saltz wrote an article discussing the link between mental illness and creative activity that I felt was really spot on. It’s important for me to stress that in no way does mental illness correlate directly to artistic talent, but instead ‘people create despite of mental illness, and not just because of it’. Meaning although it there are high statistics with creative people reporting higher levels of mood disorders, it’s not a prerequisite to artistic talent.

There are times that I find it very hard to write, much less do anything. The simple act of just thinking about it nearly exhausts me to the point of embarrassment. But I have found that because of my mood disorders, I have new things to say, new insight to share with the world, which is why I feel like people who are struggling with mental illness can be drawn towards artistic expression.

Write every day.
I read another fantastic article about how writing every day changed this man’s life. He had a very realistic approach to dealing with not being inspired and the fear of never producing work that is worth it. When you wait to be inspired, that is the beginning of the end. Behavior, he states, matters more than the outcome. Was he writing bestsellers every day? Absolutely not. He even stated that the majority of what he wrote was garbage and still is. But if you took the time to sift through the garbage, you would find a couple words that were gold. When you put something small in your every day life like he did (writing 1000 words a day), the effect can be life long. He felt withdrawal symptoms on days he couldn’t write. He ended up writing whenever he was angry or sad or lost. In the process, his voice got refined, he renewed his passion for something. A spark.

Lastly, my final point of why I write whenever things get too much, is because there is power to doing what you love. For me, it’s writing. For others, something different. Another article that I read helped me realize why I shouldn’t stop writing. I am just going to quote her directly because I can’t paraphrase how powerful her words hit me.

“ When you write and share your writing, you are putting a piece of yourself out there; it is an opportunity for an asynchronous connection between you and a virtual stranger. When you write about your fears, you are letting someone know that they are not alone facing those fears. When you write about overcoming difficult obstacles, you are giving some hope to someone out there that it is possible to do the same for themselves. When you write about your victories, you are making an example out of yourself — hey let’s aim for the stars, they are possible to reach sometimes.” -Winnie Lim

Yes, I have bad days. I have worse-than-bad days. I have days that make me want to crawl under the bed and lay there until dust starts collecting. The voices in my head might never be silenced and even though battling myself was and still is the hardest thing I’ve done and will ever do, I always remind myself not to trivialize what I’m feeling. Not to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Not to worry or be scared of what people will think when I write about my experiences but instead, to start thinking that even if it annoys 99 people, as long as it helps 1 person, it was worth sharing it. It starts with yourself.

What are your opinions, thoughts on the matter? If you have an experience you want to share, please don’t hesitate to share in the comments!

References:

Lim, W. (2013, Aug 11). The Power of Your Writing. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@wynlim/the-power-of-your-writing-c235ee82e603#.3jaoq19rp

Raos, S. (2013, Nov 19). How Writing 1000 Words a Day Changed My Life. Retrieved from https://unmistakableceo.com/how-writing-1000-words-a-day-changed-my-life-3895f4d045d2#.neonf5b8e

Saltz, A. (2014, Dec 8). Is There a Link Between Mental Illness and Creativity? Retrieved from https://medium.com/@alanasaltz/is-there-a-link-between-mental-illness-and-creativity-5597b12bca35#.926q7yahw