A little late to the party, but today is World Mental Health Day. Let’s be honest, every day is world mental health day, but for the sake of its official date, here is a personal account sharing my experiences and feelings to contribute to spreading awareness and advocacy against the negative social stigma.
Last week was the first week of October. To most people, it’s the start of Fall, the start of the countdown to Halloween, the start of the countdown to the holidays with the new year to follow. To me… it’s the mark of anniversaries and the memory of when one chapter of my life ended and a new one began.
(Beware of a hella long post!)
Two years ago, I plummeted down a dark hole of depression, indulging in unhealthy habits, before I finally sought out answers and discovered I had severe anxiety and a panic disorder. Since December of 2016, I have embarked on a journey of self-discovery and shedding the destructive layers of myself to begin life with a new perspective.
Two years later, I commemorate 10 months of sobriety and celebrate finally being in a good place mentally. It didn’t seem attainable in the past, but I’m thinking more positively and actually enjoying life and all the little things it has to offer. I’ve found stability with a great job that allows me to continue to be creative, and in that, I’ve met some great new friends along the way. All of these positive vibes have revived a light in me I didn’t know was there anymore.
This is all not to say that I’m perfect and out of the dark completely. Each day is a work in progress of a never-ending journey to always become better. I still deal with my anxiety every day—hell, not to be candid, but I had an anxious breakdown two days ago on my commute to the office. Even with all the positivity in my life now, I’m still unsatisfied with my own self-worth and believe I’m not doing enough. But I’m constantly reminding myself that I am good enough, that I have worthy accomplishments, that I am loved.
Upon discovering my anxiety, I was taking daily medication, but I didn’t want to become reliant on it. I only took the medication for a few months before researching other remedies to help myself. Yoga has been helpful for me, as far as focusing on breathing, myself and my body’s inner peace. The deep breaths help clear the mind more than one would think.
Honestly, I think what’s helped me most this past year is surrounding myself with people who accept me for who I am. I’m around people who make me feel comfortable enough to simply be myself, and I don’t feel the need to hide or try to showcase my worth to them. Going deeper, there are people I trust enough to talk to and who are accountable to help me get through my challenging moments—I’m not afraid to reach out to them when I feel the onset of anxiety attacks. And at times when my anxiety gets to an all-time high where I don’t feel comfortable to reach out to anyone, for fear of being burdensome, I have a trusted therapist I see semi-regularly.
Anyway, I’m rambling… if you’ve made it this far reading, pat yourself on the back, because I know it’s a lot. It’s heavy, it’s vulnerable, it’s personal, but that’s the point of this blog post. To help cure the stigma of mental health, I wanted to be transparent about everything, because we should be talking about mental health more. If we alienate people, scaring them away from sharing themselves, that could lead to dire consequences.
They say communication is key in a variety of avenues. As someone who’s experienced backlash and ridicule about my anxiety and depression, I think it’s especially important to start the conversation about mental health. We need to communicate our feelings without fear or guilt of being honest and vulnerable, and on the other side, we need to be open to listen and accept our friends and family. You never know what someone could be dealing with.
There are plethora resources out there to check out, but here are a few that I follow:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – I fully support their #CureStigma campaign, and I hosted a 12-hour stream-a-thon on Twitch TV, raising funds for the organization. If you’re in the Austin, TX (or general South Texas area), NAMI is hosting a national convention coming up at the end of the month.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) – In the past, I’ve heavily dealt with anxiety and depression, so this was a place I looked at as for information and education.
- Anxiety Gaming – As a gamer, I’m all about community, and seeing the message and vibes from Anxiety Gaming further enhances that sense of togetherness and community.
- A bit of shameless promotion here… I wrote a reaction piece for Infectious Magazine about Demi Lovato’s documentary Simply Complicated, which touches on mental health and goes into a deeper dive of where my anxiety comes from.
At the end of the day, we need to love ourselves, another never-ending journey. Truthfully, I am still working on loving myself, but after two years, I’m finally allowing myself to do so.
My mental health doesn’t define me, and I’m learning to embrace and accept who I am, growing less and less ashamed of myself. It’s a long journey but a profound one re-discovering myself. No matter how long it takes, every step is a step forward towards a better me.