When I first relaunched this site a few months back, I promised to hold myself accountable and actively write. What did I do? I stopped writing completely for nearly 3 months. I did exactly what I said I wouldn’t do again. I beat myself up about it, yet, I could hardly muster the energy to write a single sentence about what that felt like.
It was frustrating. I felt defeated constantly. I was at war with my desire to create and my disinterest in everything. It was a cycle I knew well and, at the time, a battle my creative brain wasn’t prepared to win. There were no ideas that could express the panic, no details to explain the sadness.
And then yesterday (quite coincidentally) I had an Aha! moment: just bloody talk about it.
The month of May in the US is Mental Health Awareness month—an observation that has happened for 70 years. I can tell you in the 27 I’ve been here for, this was the first time I had truly heard of it. I knew there were days sprinkled here and there on the calendar; days that most people passed over because it didn’t apply to them. Now, I am very open when it comes to writing about my mental health. I experienced my first panic attack at 8 years old, not knowing what it was. I’ve battled anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and OCD. I speak to a therapist regularly. I have to work at it every single day. When it comes to talking about it though, suddenly I’m speechless.
Part of this stems from grief. I’ve seen how people withdraw when I bring up lost loved ones. If I can’t bring up happy memories of the departed, who will want to hear about the problems of the living? Therein lies the problem: we have to keep talking about it.
The common stigma with any kind of mental illness is that you are deemed weak. It certainly feels that way. Lethargic, apathetic—all the things that made a great emo song in the early 2000s. To be honest, it’s why I didn’t see a therapist for quite some time. It seemed daft. I didn’t need another stranger reminding me of the strength I lacked.
The thing is, I wasn’t weak. No one who silently suffers from a mental illness is weak. In fact, the ability to talk about it allows me to understand when it’s happening almost instantly. I have learned from others how to talk myself down from an emotional ledge by having the courage to speak up. In those moments when the cycle restarts, I have an arsenal of strength around me. It takes time, sure, but the stigma has lost its hold.
So let’s start there. Whatever it is you’re working through: you are not alone. Talk about it.