I could write about so much for World Mental Health Day 2019. In some sense this year has been pivotal for my mental health. For both the good and bad that has happened, 2019 will be a year that I will remember vividly on my journey. The lessons that I have learned have helped me realize that I am not alone in my mental struggles, and that great power comes when people join together. So for my WMHD 2019 message, I’d like to reflect on what has happened to me over the past year and what I hope to take away from it. I believe that all our life experiences have some meaning behind them, and I’d like to explore the meanings of mine.
The beginning of 2019 came like any other year. I had my ideas and hopes of what I wanted to accomplish in the new year, and overall I just wanted it to be better than 2018. I have never been one to get caught up in resolutions for the new year, but I found myself making some anyway. But of course, life never goes the way you expect it to, and that was true for my 2019. Instead of getting on course to achieve my goals, I fell to the wayside. In fact, I fell so far that I ended up in the hospital.
Looking back now I’m not that surprised that something like this happened. With all that goes through my head every day, there was bound to be a time where the pressure would be too much to handle and I would fall. My anxiety and depression left me feeling like there was no hope for my life. My negative thoughts told me that there was no point in continuing on, and that it would just be better if I quit. In short, I was having a mental breakdown and desperately needed help. So I drove to a local hospital to find. And what I found was more than I ever could have expected.
Since I was a kid there was no secret that my mind was just a little bit different than everyone else’s. I have been in and out of therapy and on and off medications since I was five years old. My mental health has always been a serious, forefront issue for me and my family. But even with all that history and more, it wasn’t until I found myself on a hospital bed in the emergency room that I realized how serious my issue was. I knew then that I would need intense treatment if I was going to have a healthy life. I needed to take a new approach, so I did. I checked myself into an outpatient treatment program and began a month-long period of discovery and self-examination.
I don’t remember every single exercise or activity that we did during the program. The other patients and I usually spent our time together talking about our lives and struggles; the things that made us happy and those that brought us dread. There were people from all walks of life, ranging from teenagers to some in their eighties. From the outside looking in it may not have seemed like a group like ours could work, but it did. In the end, the one thing we all wanted was to be ok. Despite our differences, we were all headed in the same direction, even though the paths we were traveling on to get there were not all exactly the same.
Out of all the lessons I have taken since graduation from the outpatient program, I’d say the greatest one has been learning that I am not alone in my struggles. For what felt like the first time in my life, I was around people who were like me. I was around people who knew what it felt like to live with the lie that we should be ashamed of our illnesses and that there was no hope. My fellow group members were also the victims of the horrible stigmatization that comes with having a mental illness, and they wanted to show the rest of the world that they could lead healthy lives. Our group bonded over our similarities and celebrates our differences. My group helped to inspire me to change my immediate surrounding and the world of others by using my voice to make a difference. My mental health no longer had to be my greatest weakness: it could now be a source of my greatest strength.
The rest of my 2019 had been spent trying to figure out how to best use my gifts to help others who may be struggling like me. I have grown my blog, started a podcast, and begun to build an online audience through YouTube. I am planting the seeds to become more involved with the mental wellness advocacy scene in my local area, and have even reached out to those working on the national and international levels. For the first time in a long time I’ve started to feel like I’ve found my purpose and am now excited to live out that purpose the best way I can. Going forward I want to mainly focus on three things: mental wellness, creativity, and storytelling. Using those three things I hope to continue to make a bigger difference with each new year, and to celebrate new accomplishments as they come.
For anyone reading this who may be struggling with their mental health, I hope that you know that you’re loved. Just in case no one has told you today, I love you. You are worthy of living a life filled with purpose and joy, and the universe would not be the same without you. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. There are many people out there who want to help you and see you live your best life. Please don’t give up. Give life a chance. And most importantly, give yourself a chance. You deserve it.