“If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask!” the teachers announced.
Growing up, I never saw the act of asking for help as a sign of weakness. It was always encouraged in my surroundings—whether that be in school or at home.
If you were struggling with a Math question, you would turn to your teacher for help. If you couldn’t find an item at the grocery, you would ask the store’s staff for directions.
It was only until I saw the stigma around therapy that this idea began to warp. I noticed how people gawked with judgment at others if they revealed they had a therapist.
“She must be crazy,” they would say. Looks of disapproval and deep concern would pass over their faces. Yet, if you twisted your ankle, wouldn’t you seek a doctor for help? Why wouldn’t you do the same for your mental health?
Late August through September was when my anxiety intensified and stuck around longer than usual. It was unexpected for me and especially my family. It felt as though there was a constant speech going on in my head, listing all the possible things I could hyperfixate on, and it’s a voice that only decides to shut up when I’m heading off to sleep.
I pushed away my books, favorite songs and even my creative expression. I felt guilty.
I live in a beautiful home in the city, I’m incredibly close to my family, I have valued friendships, good grades and even a side job I love doing while balancing school. I felt sheepish for feeling anxious when I’m surrounded by blessings. I thought there was something wrong with me.
On top of this, I’m a people pleaser. I don’t enjoy feeling as though I’m causing people to worry; I thrive on meeting the standards for myself that I constructed in my mind. Ironic, since my parents were never the type to expect perfection. Yet, I was still stumbling.
I opened up to my parents about my mental state and have continued to give them updates. We began searching for a therapist, asking loved ones for doctor recommendations and such. At the same time, I began taking a mental health course.
It slowly occurred to me how many people were going through similar struggles regarding mental health. These were the same people I would pass in the school hallways or greet at family gatherings, yet, barely anyone seemed to speak about the importance of caring for our own mental well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act.” If what makes us human are our thoughts, feelings and actions, then why are we so silent? These elements that make us who we are, these elements that are our loudest qualities—and these are the same qualities we lack care for.
Why do we constantly shine the spotlight on physicality and never on mentality? Our minds are who we are—shouldn’t we be checking in on its health more?
Consequently, I began posting. I used social media to share short messages relating to mental health. Nothing groundbreaking, just simple reminders.
I posted some insights on my mental state and shared informative posts regarding mental health as well. Social media has always acted as a highlight reel of someone’s life, which is why I expected that people wouldn’t associate struggle with my Instagram photos of snow on mountains or sunsets by the ocean.
I noticed how sharing this small aspect of my reality was a way of coping, since I knew I was helping others as well. Instantly, messages began rolling in. People were thanking me for normalizing being vocal about my mental health, even though I was sharing only 10 percent of what I was going through.
No matter the specificity of the situation you’re in, the feeling you have in your chest is universal. Everybody has experienced overthinking at some point. Everybody has experienced anxiety one way or another. Why haven’t we been addressing mental health more?
We are far from where we should be in terms of speaking up about mental health. However, I cannot dismiss the amount of progress we’ve made over the years in normalizing this discussion.
According to Mental Health UK, people with mental health problems in the 1950s were viewed as “lunatics,” whereas discussions on mental well-being in more recent times have been far more open and accepting.
Over the phone, I told my 69-year-old grandmother about my first session with the therapist. “It’s such a relief that mental issues are discussed and addressed openly now—a far cry from our times when therapy was sort of stigmatized,” Lola Trina said.
Free online course
I am aware therapy may not be as accessible to some due to several circumstances. If this is your case, I highly suggest The Science of Well-Being course on Coursera. It’s a free online Yale course by Dr. Laurie Santos that discusses happiness and common false perceptions on matters we assume will make us happy (which do not) versus matters which actually bring us joy.
Santos covers grounds relating to ways we can switch our mindset for the better through not only insightful and scientifically proven lectures but weekly assignments such as starting a gratitude journal and writing a letter to someone you love.
The course also recommends outside sources such as books, essays and speeches found online. This course has not only helped me greatly but has had a positive impact on important people in my personal life, too. Though easier said than done, finding a person you are comfortable to open up to, whether that be a peer, parent or guardian will help greatly.
In addition to that, I picked up journaling again and am continuing to ground myself through creative expression, which is a form of self-care that I remind myself to be thankful for daily.
If you are struggling, searching for help and feel as though you have to go through this silently, please remind yourself that you don’t, and you are not alone.
Do not compare yourself to someone else’s highlight reel—no matter how their life looks, they have problems of their own, too. It all boils down to us being human.
Asking for help is not weak. Going to therapy does not make you weak. In fact, bringing those walls down and seeking insight from another person takes strength. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and being open to guidance shows that you want to take steps to become a better person. While asking for assistance in math class improves your math skills, seeking guidance for your mental health will improve your mindset.
To whoever is reading, whether you are going through something or not, check up on the people you love. Remind them that you love them. Be kinder today. It’ll boost your own happiness and theirs more than you think. —CONTRIBUTED INQ
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