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It is my best-known secret that I deal with depression and anxiety. I never knew how deep and dark mental illness could be until I began to deal with it on my own. For a few months, I kept it well hidden from my family, although they noticed significant changes in my mood and behavior. This change started about a month after a friend of mine committed suicide after a long battle with depression in his teen years—the years that are supposed to be mostly carefree and fun.
Once I broke my silence by admitting to my mom I needed help, I got the help I needed from my doctor who put me on the most basic of anti-depressants. What I have is called "situational" depression. This means my mood can be significantly changed by an event or scenario in my life.
I'll be the first to admit that I was completely insensitive to mental illness until it got to me, which is probably why I'm such an advocate for sensitivity now. Maybe it's the fact that I've started writing again, or the fact that I came to college and found the inner liberal in me, but I think it's mostly because I want to treat people with the same respect that I want to receive. It is extremely hard to share your struggles and that's why not many people do it. I make myself tell people, when appropriate (I don't encourage blurting out in class "hey I have depression! Who else??"), so that they are more willing to accept the way I act.
Since I have made this adjustment in my life (& let me back up for a minute—when I was first diagnosed, I was shameful and scared. I did not let anyone know outside of my family because I thought I was weird and I didn't want to be "that girl who only wants attention," but once I told one friend, she opened up about her own struggles and that she had dealt with it for many years, often feeling the same shame I was scared to feel. She reassured me that it is nothing to be shameful of and it will get better but it is not a linear process), I have grown deeper friendships. I have been shocked at the amount of people I seek to be friends with who have similar struggles in their lives. Once you acknowledge the struggles and triggers each person in the friendship deals with, it can make the friendship grow so much deeper.
I will be candid (because that is key when discussing mental health)—relationships with significant others can become so much harder. Everyone knows relationships are hard, but if your partner does not understand the extent of your mental health struggles, it will be hard for them to cater to your needs. When it comes to your mental health state, be selfish. This is a hard concept for me, a girl who used to only care about herself and stomped on anyone else's feelings every chance she got, who then turned her life around to only focus on others' feelings and now has to go against every ounce of her being to be selfish again. It's hard. You have to make hard decisions, but I promise your support system will be there for you. If your support system fails you, find a better group of people who will encourage you to live your most healthy, positive life.
For a while, my only support system was my family. Some of my cheer friends were amazing peripheral supporters (but let's be honest, we were in high school and no teenager knows how exactly to help) and I am forever thankful for a team sport that gave me such amazing pillars of support to lean on. However, I thought that because none of my peers were capable of being my support system, I would never find people my own age to lean on. This was okay for a while, mostly because I have such amazing parents and sisters, but it did contribute a great deal to the depression I was learning to deal with. THEN IT GOT BETTER. I went to college and began a brand new chapter in my life. I found people who supported me 1000000% and were AMAZING enough to avoid my trigger words. (That takes effort! I'm so thankful for people who care about me enough to purposefully use different phrases/words.)
All this to say, you don't have to start college or a new chapter in your life to find your people. You do have to put yourself out there, I got burned several times, and it will pay off.
You are stronger than you think. You can do this. Remember you are never alone and if all you did today was hold yourself together, that's awesome. I'm proud of you. Never give up.