Living with Mental Illness

“We should all be allies to each other for mental health, and for everything else.”

Produced by Carmen Vincent

Transcript for Living with Mental Illness

When people say bad things about you, it’s sometimes hard to let them go, especially when you have anxiety and depression.

So I was born in Texarkana in Texas, and then when I was two, we moved to Northwest Arkansas, and then when I was 12, we moved back to Texarkana. And so me coming in as a seventh grader, it was difficult to make friends and feel like I belong. For a long time, I felt like I didn’t belong because something was wrong with me. So I really struggled with a lot of insecurities and an inferiority complex, feeling like I wasn’t good enough, like I always had to prove myself. The school I had gone to in Arkansas, there was a lot of bullying and harsh treatment that I faced and so when I moved back to Texas, I didn’t realize that being mean wasn’t how people were supposed to act.

And so, after that, I started noticing depression and anxiety. I was scared to walk into school alone. I was scared to go to classes alone. I was scared to be the first one at the lunch table. It was really hard because I didn’t want to admit then I had these things to deal with. And people didn’t talk about it. People still don’t talk about it.

I think depression is more than sadness. It’s so much deeper and it’s so much harder to fight through. It’s something that can keep you from doing things. And it’s the same with anxiety. Anxiety is the feeling, for me, of when your heart rate’s beating really fast, but you can’t slow it down. You get worked up over these things that people do every day and it’s just little things that people don’t understand why you’re having trouble with, but it’s not something you can control. Sometimes I am personable and I’m open and I’m super extroverted, and then sometimes it feels like there’s something sitting on my chest and I just can’t speak. Internally, it’s like I’ve done this before why can’t I do it now? And I just kind of have to be patient with myself because those negative thoughts and comments I’m telling myself are not getting me anywhere. They’re just making me more anxious and so I have to remind myself that this is normal and I can work through it and there are other people who have felt that way.

When people say bad things about you, it’s sometimes hard to let them go, especially when you have anxiety and depression. So for a really long time I held on to these ideas that I wasn’t worthy and that no one would ever love me. I was undeserving. I was just the worst person ever. I was stupid. I was a whore. Just all these negative things that people had said about me that because of my depression and anxiety I held on to.

When I started going to counseling, I definitely got a lot of comments about how I was unstable or crazy. I just started ignoring it and the way I think of it is that counseling, getting mental health, help is just like what you would do if you had an ear infection or something was wrong with your leg or you had a broken bone. It’s just a kind of medical therapy to help you get better. And I’m very much a person of you shouldn’t be ashamed of anything and so I talked about it. People acted like these were just temporary emotions that would just go away over time like a crush or something.

I think people fear what they don’t understand, which is frustrating but at the same time we have to be empathetic with that. Growing up in a small town, I didn’t always understand different cultures and races and the problems that they faced and when I came to Valpo, that’s one of the things I really wanted to learn about and I think it’s the same with mental health. If you don’t have those issues, you still need to learn about them because they’re still relevant socially.

So in today’s society we have this concept of allyship and being an ally and we can be allies in so many different ways to different races and genders and sexualities. People don’t think about being allies for mental illness. Like, it’s so easy to just say, “Hey no, that preconceived notion is wrong,” “Hey, that’s a stereotype.” Whether you have a mental disorder or mental illness or not, being an ally is important. We should all be allies to each other for mental health and for everything else.

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