Another month is about to pass and we are almost halfway through 2019! This post is a little late, but it’s one that is particularly important to me. If you didn’t know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
For this occasion, I’ve decided to share my story about my mental illness with you. My hope is that it will bring awareness and hopefully even help someone like me.
Why understanding mental illness at an early age is important
As a kid, my life was perfect. I had a loving family, a home, and food on my plate every day. I didn’t know what it was like to worry or to overthink.
When I was four, I remember being excited to begin kindergarten. It was all I would talk about.
The first day of school came, and I was so happy. My mom walked with me to my class and suddenly when she left, I wasn’t excited anymore. Something inside of me changed, and it was something that I had never felt before that moment. I looked around at my classmates, and suddenly I cared what others thought of me.
Suddenly, I couldn’t move or talk like I normally had my whole life. In fact, I don’t know if I spoke at all that day. If I did, it wasn’t me.
This was the first time I remember asking myself, “What’s wrong with me?”
I don’t believe that people were very aware of mental illness back then. If they had been, maybe I would’ve known that I had anxiety the year I started school. Maybe I would have actually lived a normal, happy life if I understood the way my mind worked earlier.
I had a good life. So what was the problem? Why couldn’t I talk when I was in class? Or even laugh?
Living without treatment
As the years passed, I got used to talking more in school and making friends. I was still known as “the quiet girl”, and it bothered me tremendously. Truthfully, I wasn’t quiet. The real me was loud, a smart ass with an opinion about everything, and a dark sense of humor. But the real me left my side when I was around people I didn’t know.
Everyone is shy to an extent. They get nervous, and care about what others think, especially as a teenager. What I was experiencing, however, was something way more intense. I couldn’t do things that my friends did, and it led to a lot of depression and self-loathing. I even began to believe that I was slow and not as smart as others.
A final realization
In my early twenties, I became worse somehow. I opened up to the people who were close in my life, but random situations with random people usually led to me embarrassing myself.
In fact, I had a new problem. Not only was I shy and nervous, but my face was now giving it away. Anytime I found myself in a situation that I didn’t want to be in, my face would turn bright red. And I mean red. This new problem brought on a whole new fear for me. Now in normal situations, I would beg myself not to turn red. And if I did, it was so embarrassing that it would be hard to make it go away.
I was twenty-three when I googled this symptom. Why it took so long for me to do; I have no idea. Maybe it was because I felt like I had no right to say their was something wrong with me.
Google, of course, came up with the answer that it was anxiety. My whole life suddenly made sense. Sure, I had heard of anxiety and anxiety attacks before. But I guess it’s true when they say you never think it could happen to you.
I began to learn all I could about anxiety, and realized there were so many others like me. Especially women.
Understanding the problem
As I have gone through this journey of understanding myself more, and finding coping mechanisms, I have realized the problem with mental illness. The problem isn’t mental illness itself; but the lack of knowledge and understanding of it.
As I said earlier, if I had known that I had anxiety as a kid, I believe my life would have been easier. Of course, I’m not complaining because I’m grateful for my life and I’m okay with where I’ve ended up. However, there are so many others like me, in even worse conditions, who have gone through their entire lives untreated.
The concern for mental illness is new, and thankfully, it’s rising. Still, there is a whole, older generation who doesn’t believe in it. They believe that this new generation is just a bunch of “babies” who complain and don’t know how to deal with their problems.
I’ve been told that all I need to do is “get out more” and “just deal with it”. It’s really not that simple. Finding ways to deal with a mental illness takes time, and many different strategies. Sadly, it never truly goes away, but there are ways to live more comfortably with it.
I hope that this post was helpful. Maybe you, or someone in your life needs the help and understanding that I did. Just remember, mental health is just as important as physical health. The key is understanding and extending your knowledge about it. Please share this post. Let’s bring awareness to others!