Just because I’ve gotten help doesn’t mean I’m recovered.
These days many people are becoming more receptive to mental illness and the struggles that come with it. From social media trends for ‘checking on your friends’ to a social awareness on how pressure on young girls can lead to eating disorders, mental illness is now mainstream.
However, along with this increased understanding and social normalisation come many misconceptions.
Many people think that people like me, with anxiety or depression can wake up one day and decide to ‘get better’. That I can wake up one day and decide to ‘smile, drink coffee and deal with it’. But anxiety isn’t something that I can just ‘turn off’.
Anxiety isn’t something that I choose to have on a Monday and choose to not have on a Sunday. Anxiety isn’t a decision. It isn’t a voluntary thing that I want in my life day in and day out. I can’t just ‘choose to be happy’.
I always knew I was different. From as young as I can possibly remember I knew I wasn’t like other children. I felt things way more intensely and came across as dramatic when I tried to express myself.
My mother, like many people her age, saw mental illness as something to be embarrassed about. When I started to have emotional outbursts at school or I’d cry and beg her not to fall asleep during the day because the anxiety I felt was unbearable I was just labelled a child with behavioural problems. I was always made to feel like I chose to be this way.
I'm a 23 year old man, and I've struggled with my mental health for about a decade. What began as having low moods turned into suicidal thoughts, psychosis, addiction, anxieties and depression. At one point I tried to take my own life.
Growing up with these emotions resulted in me feeling very isolated.
I hid my true emotions as best I could growing up because the few occasions when I mentioned I was feeling low, not even depressed, I was told to ‘man up’ or ‘get over it’.