As some of you may know, yesterday was World Mental Health day. As I went through my usual craziness of class, I couldn’t stop thinking about how our society deals with this topic. Mental health can be incredibly difficult to talk about many avoid the topic altogether because it’s deemed shameful if we are struggling. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 4 people in the world are effected by mental illness. 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias. Not to mention, 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder, and 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
These should be shocking enough statistics to make changes in the way our world addresses mental illnesses. So why don’t we?
In my search for finding a way to bring up these subjects, I’ve realized we can’t start a fire until someone lights a match. The more people that share what they’ve struggled with, the less our society will view mental health as an untouchable subject. I’ve decided to share my story in hopes of making this change happen.
In elementary school, I never cared what people thought of me. I went through a phase where I thought jeans were the most uncomfortable clothing in the world and only wore khakis for way too long. I mostly hung out with boys because they were the ones who played soccer at recess, and I played air soft and Star Wars Battlefront with my brother. That summed me up in a nutshell.
When I got to middle school, I was bullied by some girls on my soccer team for reasons unknown to me and I walked in on them talking about me. It was one of the first times I realized the world wasn’t always going to be easy and my heart could break. I found myself talking less in group settings, switched to wearing girly clothes and stopped trying so hard in gym class.
By the time I got to high school, I was bullied by some girls that I went to school and dance class with. It made me so anxious that a lot of times my heart would race if I ran into them and I would walk the opposite direction. I stopped talking in big groups and tried to make myself invisible because I felt like who I am was wrong. I would get home from dance and cry or sometimes fake being sick so I wouldn’t have to go.
At the end of my freshman year of college, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety by my school’s counseling facility. I had gone to counseling at the end of that year to cope with other events going on in my life, but being diagnosed with social anxiety made so much sense. Although I haven’t been bullied in college, I did see the effects from those events in my life now. It’s taken me awhile to not get very nervous when I meet groups of people. I still have thoughts of they probably think I’m weird or they must think I’m so annoying when I talk to someone I don’t know very well. From my freshman year to my senior year, I’ve been able to cope with my social anxiety in a much better way. I’ve stopped apologizing for being who I am because I finally realized that everyone else is trying to figure out how to be themselves as well. And if someone doesn’t accept you for who you are, they’re probably struggling with how to accept themselves. That was a hard area to learn from because it took me a long time to forgive them and remember that they’re human too.
Where I am now is far different from where I once was with social anxiety. I don’t feel as nervous as I once did when I meet new people and I put myself out there a little more in larger social settings. I do have my days as anyone does where I simply don’t want to go out with friends at night or get anxious about what someone could be thinking about me, but we all have those moments of relapse. Overall, I just want to express that sometimes we’ll have our bad days and thats ok. It doesn’t mean that I’m a failure or a mess-up; it just means that I’m human.
For anyone who struggles with mental health, I just want you to know that talking to someone you love and trust is a game changer. I went from feeling so alone to feeling like I had people on my side to get me through difficult situations. Please, please, please tell someone if you are struggling, especially if you are at a point where you don’t think you can take it any longer. I just need to remind you that you are so loved and you never have to face tribulations alone.
I hope someday mental health will be a topic that isn’t quite so scary to talk about. If you felt moved by this, please consider sharing my story on your social media or sharing your own story relating to mental health. Regardless of if you have struggled or if someone you know has, every conversation can make a difference.
Thank you so much for listening, you are so, so loved! Much love, Brynne