For those of you who don’t know, May is Mental Health Awareness month. Madison has done a great job at working to end the stigma surrounding mental health, including discussing it on social media and opening a new mental health wing at Madison Memorial. These are great steps we need to continue to take so we can get to the point where people have the ability to recognize issues they may have so they can receive help.
I struggle with anxiety stemming from perfectionism. No, not the kind of perfectionism that needs everything to be tidy; my room is a mess. This type of perfectionism is hating messing up or being wrong to an extreme degree. I carry a lot of pressure on myself to never make mistakes, and when I do or have the opportunity to, that’s when I get anxiety. Aspects of this have followed me around my whole life, never too bad, but it has gotten increasingly worse. Along with this, I get moments of depression that will luckily only last for a couple of days, but it did reach a point where it was really difficult for me to go to school because it just felt so difficult just to exist there. I also got into really bad habits, such as biting the inside of my cheeks, and tearing off my split ends to the point where bits of hair are so short they can never go up into a ponytail.
Dealing with this has certainly been a journey for me. Because of the stigma around mental health, I was always scared to approach my parents and tell them this was something I might have, mostly out of fear to be told I was just “self diagnosing”. So I didn’t tell them directly for a while, but rather tried to show them so they could figure it out themselves. This led to very self-destructive habits of trying to put myself into situations that gave me anxiety to prove it to myself and others. Although I’m working to stop it, I still get a little bit of satisfaction when my anxiety gets bad because I view it as more proof. Thanks to a little bit of courage I’ve been able to muster up, I was finally blunt with my parents and told them I need help. Once they realized that that was true, they opened up and have been working to be more attentive to my needs. I have gone to two counseling sessions so far and already have learned so much about myself, as well as really helpful strategies to help cope.
I’ve told very few people that I’ve gone to counseling, for some reason it felt like it wasn’t my secret to share, like I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. Although part of that might be me overthinking, a lot of it has to do with the lack of normalizing getting help and sharing our stories. The more we share our experiences, the more comfortable others will be to speak up and share theirs. Having depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, etc., is never something to be ashamed of or hidden. So many more people than you’d think, and people that you know, struggle with mental illnesses. We must end the embarrassment surrounding the topic of mental health, because the more we make it so it’s harder to reach out and ask for help, the more dangerous it can be.