I walked through the door of room 112 as I did many times before, but as I entered I froze. Someone I knew stood in the small room in front of me. A feeling I soon noticed as shame, washed over me. It was the type of shame I used to feel when I was a young girl, when my mom caught me doing something I knew I shouldn’t be doing. Only, I wasn’t a child anymore, and I wasn’t doing something I felt was wrong. So why was I ashamed to be seen there? I knew the answer, and that made me feel even more ashamed of myself. Room 112 is also known as the student health and counseling center. A place I was rather familiar with, but I didn’t want people to know that. The sad truth is that even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I was still doing something that in today’s world, is seen as wrong.
When I was told I had clinical depression, anxiety, and panic disorder, I wasn’t surprised. Anyone who struggles with any of those things, or any other mental illness, knows it’s something that you can’t merely ignore. Yet, people are embarrassed to receive help for it, just as I was embarrassed to be seen going to a therapy session.
After I left my session that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about how foolish it was for me to feel any kind of humiliation. It wasn’t as if I asked for this, and it wasn’t something I could take care of by myself.
I kept my mental illness a secret from the moment I realized I had it. I had this notion in my mind that the people around me would start to look at me differently. Instead of seeing me the way they always had, they would view me as weak, sad, maybe even a little pathetic in some cases. I tried to hide it like a secret. I kept it tucked away in my mind with the hope that no one would ever know. I had been told that mental illness means you are crazy, that you’ve lost your mind. I had been told it made you weak, vulnerable, and easy to take advantage of. I had been told it means you are broken, missing pieces everyone else has.
I found it baffling. In school, we are required to take health classes. They would focus on nutrition and being active. They would tell us not to do drugs or drink. They would teach us all of the bad things that would happen if we didn’t treat our bodies with respect. Yet, how frustrating it was to me because they never taught us the importance of loving ourselves. They never spoke about the dangers that would arise when our self-worth was little to nothing. They missed the most important piece of how to respect ourselves. They made us believe that because it wasn’t talked about it was somehow wrong, that our feelings of despair weren’t valid.
Growing up and maturing in today’s world is hard enough, the last thing I needed was another label thrown on my name, and that’s exactly what society has become. A pool of labels that are free for the taking, and free to be placed on whomever you choose. No one can blame me for not wanting “mental illness” tattooed across my forehead. Keeping it to myself was the only thing that made sense to me.
For years I silently dealt with the feeling of my mind going to war with itself. I didn’t think it was something anyone could fix. That was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made. I often think about how different my life would’ve been if I would’ve accepted the fact that I was depressed.
Eventually, it was just too much. It gets to a point where the hand holding your heart is squeezing too hard, the pit in your stomach is growing too large, and the suffocating feeling of the world around you is just too overwhelming. My body felt like it was giving up on me even though, physically, I was perfectly healthy.
I consider myself lucky. There are some people who aren’t with us anymore because it became too much for them too. I could’ve easily been one of those people if it weren’t for certain people in my life. I was lucky I had friends and family who knew me well enough to know I was slipping away. They caught me before I fell. I got help for them, but it didn’t take me long to see how badly I needed it.
The thing about mental illness is that you can never truly “fix” it. People don’t realize that a few pills a day and a handful of therapy sessions isn’t going to take away the emotional pain you are battling.
It isn’t going away. It will never go away. That is not a reason to give up though. Mental illness is not something you can “fix” because it is not something that makes you broken. For years I thought I was missing pieces that everyone else had. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. I’m not sure when the words “broken” and “mental illness” started being grouped together, but it may be one of the cruelest things that has happened to society. The fact that people are scared to admit to how they are struggling simply because they fear the world will isolate them is so twisted that I can’t believe as human beings we even managed to let it get this far.
Mental illness isn’t something that is comfortable for people to talk about, and so we sit in silence. The silence is the killer. The silence is what pulls those of us who are suffering deeper into the abyss we’ve been trying to claw our way out of. We scream for help but the only answers we get are murmurs and whispers in the dark.
It is imperative that mental illness is accepted and talked about. There’s no reason two words should make people so uncomfortable. There’s no reason people shouldn’t be getting the help they need. There’s no reason anyone should feel so hopeless that they convince themselves giving up is the best option. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, it will take anyone as its victim.
I tried to overcome my illness by myself. I tried, and I lost. I lost friendships, opportunities, and most importantly, myself. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom that I came to the realization that I didn’t need to overcome anything on my own. Seven billion people in the world and I somehow overlooked the chance that, someone, somewhere, may be hurting the way I was. I now understand how common it is to be diagnosed with a mental illness.
I know that my depression and anxiety will be something I have to constantly be battling for the rest of my life. Accepting that is the first step I needed to take on the long road to feeling better. I still have days when getting up doesn’t seem worth it, and I still have nights when it seems like I am the only person in the world that feels the way I do.
But I do get up. I get up for all the people who don’t think it’s worth it either. I get up and I hope, that within the seven billion people in this world, the ones who feel the same pain as I do, are choosing to get up too.
Written By Grace Zukus