May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I want to share with you my story (especially since I said I would). But first things first:
- I’m not a physician, and if you’re suffering from a mental health issue, then please go see your doctor.
- It’s my hope that by sharing my story, I could help someone else feel less alone or become motivated to seek help or to be more understanding of people who suffer from mental health issues.
- There’s a lot to be said so I’m not going to pour it all out in one post. So please come back and finish the story with me.
In college, I had Depression. Depending on which statistic from the many out there we go with, about 1 in 4 college students suffer from mental illness, and 40-70% never seek help. I was that. I didn’t seek help because I didn’t know. I didn’t have a name for it. Never in my wildest imagination could I have imagined that I – a student blessed enough to attend a Christian college with a ministry-related major – could have Depression (Major Depressive Disorder, if we want to get technical about it).
It was inconceivable so I chalked it all up to not handling my life well. I chalked it up to stress. I convinced myself that I just had to try harder at school, at relationships, at work, at being a Christian. If I did that, everything would fall into place.
But it didn’t and I was too ashamed to tell anyone what I was going through. Days of sleeping, only getting up to eat or use the bathroom. Then nights of insomnia. Massive weight gain. Losing interest in my own dreams and goals. Being paralyzed to make any decisions. These boulders of guilt, sadness, loneliness, and anger. So. Much. Anger. I cried all the time. I hardly smiled (so much so that a friend noticed).
My saving grace – I know it’s God, but I think He did this – is that I thought suicide was a one-way ticket to hell and I didn’t want to go there. I don’t know if it is, but I do know that I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to escape. I would be driving on Hwy 17 and wonder what would happen if I got in a car accident and end up in a coma, only to wake up and have amnesia. It’s morbid, but it’s not death. If I could just leave, everything would be okay.
Now I know it wouldn’t have been. Now I’m aware of what I went through, and you kind of do too. I didn’t tell you all that so we can have a pity party. I told you because this post is titled “The Things Unsaid.”
With the severity of the symptoms of Depression, you would think it wouldn’t go unnoticed. That more people would be helped. Sadly, that’s not true. Even if people notice, it doesn’t mean help is given.
One random afternoon, my mom called me. She asked me if something was wrong. I was a second away from spilling my guts out when someone came into the room. “No, I’m fine,” I told my mom. She asked maybe two more times if I was sure I was okay, if anything was wrong. But I had already shut down simply because there was another person in the room.
There are many things that go unsaid when it comes to mental health issues. Not asking for help. Not knowing you need help. Not insisting someone get help. Not talking to anyone about it. Not sharing your story because of shame, because of the stigma, because – like me – you don’t like dwelling on the past or don’t want people coming up to you trying to fix you or looking at you differently. But that’s why I’m participating in Mental Health Awareness Month, because we need to start talking about it.
Things cannot go unsaid anymore. I’m sharing my story to open the lines of communication. To shed light into the darkness that many are suffering in. I hate that darkness. I was in it, and then I lived in fear of falling back in it. Sometimes, I turn towards it, but I catch myself because I’m aware.
We need to be aware, for our sake and the sake of those around us. Join me this May for Mental Health Awareness Month. You can read about it or sign the pledge to be #StigmaFree. And come back here throughout the month for the rest of my story.