For World Mental Health Day, we let one of our writers share her own account of her battle against depression and anxiety. Cherie has been with Rocket Social since 2017, that same year she first noticed anxiety and panic attacks coming and some suicidal thoughts. However, at that moment, she shrugged it off as merely just an emotional meltdown of some sort given her situation.
But as she welcomed this year, Cherie noticed that what seemed to me something she considered as just an emotional meltdown turned out to be something worse and frequent. It was a battle she never saw coming, that she never expected she would be fighting.
In this week’s blog, we step into her world, her story, and that – as she would put it – writing this down would not only help take the weight off her shoulders. It is also a brave start to fight mental health illness and the stigma that comes with it.
Mental Health Matters: The Signs That Point
This is Cherie… and this is my mental health story.
I never really thought it would hit me. Depression and anxiety is something I thought would never happen to me. I may have some down moments in the past – some defeats and losses – but I never considered those sad nights and fluctuating euphoria as depression. For me, I just thought it was a meltdown… something I could shrug off with just ice cream and pizza and other comfort food I could think of.
It was early this year when it finally hit me. I was walking absent-mindedly – like an autopilot mode. There’s this sudden and constant questioning of how it would feel like to jump off from 30-40 feet high, or to be run over by a car. Nights when I either can’t sleep or just want to sleep and never get back up. No food entices me; it’s like I eat just because I need to. Everything that I hold dear was spiralling down.
Little did I know, these were the signs that was pointing me to recognizing my illness. Mental illness, that is.
We often don’t see the signs from the outside. One might look too happy, enjoys great food, can function well in their work or class. But we never know the struggles within. There are things that we don’t see from the outside – a bigger storm; a darker day. Even I, who experienced this myself, couldn’t recognize it in me.
The one thing that a person with mental health illness should do is to seek help. However, that’s easier said than done.
Opening up to people, even to my closest friends, wasn’t easy. There’s this feeling that you have to mince words carefully. There is also the fear that people would invalidate your struggle and dismiss your confession as merely ranting. I felt that most of the time. It is never easy to come up to someone and say ‘Hey! I have depression.’ No.
I would say seeking help even just by opening up to someone is one of the bravest thing a person with mental illness could do. It’s simply recognizing you have one. Acknowledging the fact that you need help. Those two things, no matter how simple, is the bravest, biggest step.
You’re lucky if the first few people you opened up to are empathetic and would understand that what you’re opening up isn’t easy for you. These are the kind of people you want to be with you in this journey. I say ‘journey’ because it really is a long way to go.
But some can be very unsupportive. They brush you off like it’s nothing. And that’s one of the reasons we go back to our holes. It is when we felt like we’ve been rejected again that we go back to where we were before – our own darkness.
Counselor or Psychiatrist?
These two are vital in your road to clearing that mind of yours. It’s not a 100% cure; but both can sit down with you and ease everything out. But which one should you go to?
In my case, I went to a guidance counselor (since I was in grad school and it’s free). I thought that maybe I just have to air everything out to someone personally and not through chat. It is because that time I was far away from family and friends. I was indeed relieved. She was just there, listening to my entire story. Aside from listening, she also helped me dissect my story… find some loopholes where she thinks there could be triggers somewhere.
For me, that was a hug help. I wasn’t able to recognize that there were moments in my life that might have triggered my anxiety and depression. Triggers that I thought were merely just useless moments. Little did I know that it was one tiny event that brought me to the bigger shit I was in.
A psychiatrist, however, is a more clinical approach. Sure, a counselor had her credentials for it. But a psychiatrist can determine more as to how to deal with the triggers.
My counselor actually advised me to see one. I haven’t done that yet but in time I will. I am looking forward to it, anyway. And I hope it will definitely help my case.
What Not To Say to a Person Suffering Mental Health Illness
I found out that not all assurances are assuring; not all inspirational quotes are inspiring. In short, what others see as the simple solution to everything just isn’t.
So, what do you say to someone who suffers from any mental health illness? Or rather… what NOT to say to them?
‘It’s fine. You’ll be okay. It’s just today.’ Something that could oversimplify the situation as just a spur of the moment thing. Because it isn’t. Like I said, it is a journey. Meaning, there’s a whole lot to it that just today. Rather than saying that, assure them that what they’re feeling is valid. That their worries are indeed something to worry about, but assure them that you are them to help sort things through.
‘Relax. Others have bigger problems than you, so why fuss about it?’ That’s the worst thing you could say. True, others have bigger problems. But never discount ones problems by comparing them to others. Saying so is like telling them that they actually don’t have problems and that they are just whining. Instead, ask them why this has been a burden to them. Know that there are reasons behind problems. Look into their past situation that might have brought them to their misery now. Only then will you understand that, indeed, their problems are valid.
‘Just pray and have faith.’ I’ll tiptoe on this one just a little because I might hurt others who are religious and faithful. My friend once told me this. She was a Christian; I’m a Catholic. She often goes to church and do worship; I don’t. But that doesn’t mean that my problem is a lack of prayer and faith. When she told me that, I was taken aback. I said ‘do you really think I never prayed?’ Because for all she knows, I have prayed more than I could. At dead hours of the night, I do nothing but cry and pray and ask for God to take all the pain away. So never think that depression or any mental illness is just a lack of faith – whatever religion you may practice.
End the Stigma
The biggest challenge in our society today is ending the stigma against mental illnesses.
I wanted to write this piece for Rocket Social because I want to speak out. Speak out against the stigma. Speak up for those who are suffering inside.
Sometimes, mental health is often disregarded. It is just in recent times that people started to care about it. But even so, there are still people who doesn’t understand this. There is still discrimination among people. And there is still that notion that it is not as important as physical health.
Let’s end the stigma. Mental health is as important as physical health. Signs and symptoms may not be evident, but that’s actually the most dangerous thing.
Reach out. Help someone. Talk to your friends and check up on them. These little gestures, for all we know, can save a life out there.
I know because it saved mine.