People Are Speaking Out About Mental Health & It's A Reminder That Your Feelings Are Valid
Since 1992, October 10 has been recognized as World Mental Health Day. On this day, over 100 countries, including the United States, take the time to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done in the mental health field, how to raise awareness, and how to erase the stigma surrounding it. This World Mental Health Day, the focus is on mental health at work. After all, the workplace where we spend so much — if not most — of our time, but it's also a place where we may be embarrassed to discuss any of our personal struggles. But we shouldn't be. According to the World Health Organization, one in four people worldwide are affected by mental disorders. I am one in four.
I was staying at my best friend's house one night during my junior year of high school, and as I slept atop a mattress on the floor, a wave crashed over me out of the darkest blue. It wasn't the first time I'd felt something like it, but it had been long enough that I had almost forgotten I could feel so awful. My friend was already sleeping and I didn't know what to do. While I had felt the wave before, I still had absolutely no clue what it was or what had brought it on. All I knew was that my entire body had been signaled into a fight-or-flight reaction and my brain was giving no indication that I'd survive it. After about an hour of pure terror, I finally fell asleep.
Five years later I would discover that the wave had a name: panic attack. While this diagnosis quite literally changed my life, the 20 years before it were filled with an unnecessary array of questions. Mental health education had failed me, so, while I had heard of panic attacks before, no one had ever explained them well enough for me to know that it was what I experienced. At the same time, mental health stigma had influenced me as well. I knew something was wrong, but I was scared of being judged or being seen as weak if I admitted it. When I thought about mental illness, my mind immediately went to images of depression and self-harm. I wasn't experiencing that so I couldn't have a mental illness, right?
Since then, I've learned that mental illness does not have a one-size-fits-all definition. It comes in the form of so many different symptoms and actions. Just because you might not be at the extreme side of the spectrum, it doesn't mean your struggle is any less significant or impactful. Not being able to recognize an outside cause for how you feel doesn't mean you are being dramatic or don't have an actual issue that needs to be dealt with. I've gone to therapy on and off throughout my life since I was five and yet, it wasn't until I acknowledged, to myself, that I was dealing with something that needed real care, that any diagnosis was made.
That's the problem with mental illness — you think you can fake that you're OK and those feelings will magically go away. Instead, or in my case at least, it continued to get worse, and that initial wave turned into a tsunami that had no forecast of cooling down.
Through conversation and working to remove the stigma, mental illness in America has the potential to look completely different. If you're struggling with mental illness, please know that you're not alone. Below are 31 #WorldMentalHealthDay tweets that will inspire you about the importance of talking about mental health.