Growing up, we’re told to be strong. To never complain. To do our duty. Our parents have raised us to be self-sufficient in a difficult world. And so we are. We swallow down our anger, we push down our feelings and we put one step in front of the other. Yes, we think. This is strength.
We never stop to consider whether our own terrifying self-sufficiency, our silence, and our responsibilities can leave us feeling so alone. And that in doing all these things, we’re left with a confusing mass of mental health issues that we are absolutely ashamed of – panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and more.
When everything and everyone around you is moving so fast, looking so invulnerable, and succeeding so much, it almost seems downright unfair to have these feelings. Why can’t your mind cooperate? Why do you feel so much anxiety? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
You can feel the panic rising, the sense of hopelessness, and the misery of not having someone to confide in. Why? Because you’re ashamed. You can’t handle your mental health like others. And although you know your friends are ready to listen and empathize with your mental health issues, you can’t bring yourself to say those three words that you so desperately need – I need help.
You do need help. You also need hugs and you need to know, that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone is struggling in their own way.
So let’s break this down: very often when we need help, our first thought, curiously, isn’t about ourselves. It’s about everyone else. What will people say? Will I seem weak? Will they think I’m crazy?
And while we have made some strides in mental health awareness, society at large can hurt us with their misconceptions, lack of knowledge or lack of empathy for how we are feeling. But, in this case, society can sometimes be a mirror for what we feel about ourselves. We don’t know enough about mental illness, and this lack of knowledge can push us to ignore our problems.
Yes, society can often reflect a strong mental health stigma, but it’s no less than the stigma we feel inside about our own emotional health.
We don’t recognize the physical symptoms that mental illness can cause, or how our illness affects us.
The first step to getting help is simple – admitting that there is a problem. Acknowledge that things might not be as perfect as they seem. Let down your guard and examine your own feelings. Be kind. The second step is considering your options. There are a variety of mental health services out there – counseling, medication, emergency hotlines, wellness apps, and more. Thirdly, reach out to a friend or family member who you trust – while you might be scared of a negative reaction; there’s an equal chance that you’ll meet nothing but kindness and empathy.
Everything that we do has two sides to it. We’ve been raised to view the world as a tough arena, where you need to rely on your own strength. But, if you give it a chance, you might discover an equal amount of kindness and beauty in the people and places around you. And you might unlock a new kind of strength – one you never knew you had.