“Your heartache is someone else’s hope. If you make it through, somebody else is going to make it through.” -Kim McManus
Growing up, I didn’t know that the issues I had as a child were related to having a mental illness. I thought that my inability to fall asleep, my trouble stomaching food, my debilitating and awful fear of being around people were all just a part of who I was. I rightfully believed that the difficulty breathing, the shaking, the kicking, the crying, all of it, was due to having a failure for a body. My negative thoughts, my horrible dreams, the traumatic flashbacks, a glitch in my brain of some sort. I wasn’t a difficult child to take care of; I was always hidden somewhere in the house with my books or watching television. I enjoyed my alone time more than I liked being around other people and often kept to myself. I was shy and quiet. But little did I know that my projected silence would cause a lot more harm than good. Instead of receiving the medical attention that I needed for the proper diagnosis of my mental disorders, I was left for many years believing that I was simply too flawed to be “normal.”
This projected silence was kept up even as a teenager when the anxiety and depression would cause me to stay in bed for hours. I felt useless, worthless, and helpless. I had constant aches and pains, tiredness and fatigue, shakiness, and panic. The first time I had an anxiety attack in front of my parents, my father screamed at me and threatened to take everything away because he thought that I was doing drugs. From then on I learned to keep my mental illness closed away from my parents. It was horrible because I wanted to feel better, to be different, to find a way out of the hollow, shallow darkness that I found myself in. I had my best friend, a boyfriend, and a whole group of close friends who looked out for me until things started to become much worse. My anxiety began to be projected into my need to control everything around me such as my food intake and physical activity. People left, and I found myself alone with only my faith by my side.
During that time I was very religious. And it was my faith, with the support of my mother, that helped me recover from disordered eating habits that had later led to anorexia nervosa. A whole year of change occurred after my recovery: I became naturally motivated to work hard, be disciplined, and stay dedicated to my hopes and dreams. But under the new foundation that I was building, I still had the ugly roots that had pulled me down before:
The need for control.
The fear of not being good enough.
The negative voices inside my head.
Worrisome and unproductive thoughts.
Resistance, resentment, anger, fear.
Fast forward a few years later, I write this to advocate for the importance of speaking up. Sharing our story. Telling others what we’re going through. Because now looking back, I truly believe that I could have healed from my wounds and traumas many years before if only I would have said something sooner. If I would have turned to my mentors and supervisors to tell them what I was going through. If I would have reached out to my closest friends to tell them what had went on in the past. To work through the trauma with a professional who could have seen the pain I was feeling and put it into words that I myself could conceptualize. My boyfriend and I have had the same conversation multiple times before; how much more healing could have gone on if we simply had asked each other what we were going through more often as kids.
I’ll admit, sometimes I feel ashamed sharing that I’ve had debilitating generalized anxiety, mild depression, severe panic disorder, chronic/complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and multiple eating disorders. It brings me to shame because I grew up believing that it was wrong to have a mental health disorder. That it was some sort of sin to feel this way; a sign of ungratefulness. But it’s not. We’re made to feel pain, to remember the trauma, to hold on to later let go, heal, and grow. But I didn’t know. And now I can only move forward repeating that I am not wrong for feeling what I feel like a broken record.
Every single day I give my best effort to stray away from anxiety, panic, depressed feelings, etc. I’ve learned that resistance only makes it worse. Trying to run away can only go so far. The key is to face it in small bite-sized portions whenever possible. Being aware of what is there and accepting it as part of today’s story. But yet, there’s an emptiness that exacerbates the panic each time. And it’s because even though I like being alone, I feel lonely in this. I know that I’m not. I read about those going through the same challenges all the time. My boyfriend right now also deals with a similar kind of debilitating anxiety and panic. But I guess I feel lonely because just like each person is different and unique, so is our mental health. No one thing can help everyone the same way. And it’s this adventure of trying to find the ‘perfect’ combination of methods to heal and grow that is frustrating and exhausting.
I have no real place of where I was going with this. I just want others to see that even though I write about ways to bettering one’s mental health all the time, it doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out. I struggle all the time, the majority of it because of the chronic stressors in my life that I currently need to live with. But still, I wanted to make the space for you to open up. I encourage you to share your story. Tell others what you’re going through. To create that stable bridge where emotions, feelings, thoughts, and wounds can be transmitted through. Going through a mental health disorder is difficult, but not as difficult as going through it alone. We’re all going through something. So why not open up to go through it together?
All of us, with our unique sets of wounds and traumas. Failures and drawbacks. Insecurities and fears. Because at the end of the day, aren’t we all just human beings trying to find love, acceptance, and most importantly our truest, most authentic selves?