Today, Tuesday, October 10th is World Mental Health Day, a day to bring awareness to mental health issues and show support to those who are struggling.
I’ve talked a few times about my mental health and struggles with anxiety and depression on this blog in the following posts:
- Study Abroad and Mental Health: Where I opened up about being diagnosed with depression and anxiety while studying abroad in spring of 2016.
- Don’t Tell Me To Relax: Telling me, or anyone with anxiety, to “just calm down” is more hurtful than helpful.
- Anxiety Looks Like…: Although I’m “high-functioning,” I still experience symptoms in my everyday life.
- “Your Mental Illness Does Not Define You”: It’s a part of who I am and I’m not ashamed (I will repeat a lot of what I said in this post in this piece).
I don’t always know how to put into words how I’m feeling or what I’m experiencing, which is why I don’t talk about my mental health much, but for today, I’ll make an exception.
I met someone last week and when they were over one evening, it was time to take my medicine and when they inquired what the pills were for, I was open about how I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I know I put them in an awkward place, but they said they didn’t expect me to have depression because I come across happy-go-lucky and they told me that I seem to be doing well.
Although on paper I’m at a good place in my life (good university student, involved with extracurriculars, strong friendships, healthy lifestyle), that doesn’t mean I’m “cured.” Only recently did I have a few of the worst anxiety attacks I’ve ever experienced and have been especially fatigued. Additionally, this past summer, my anxiety seemed to be at an all-time high almost constantly and has only recently subsided to “normal” levels. I’ve come to accept that although I can do my best to combat bad days, they are inevitable and I should prioritize taking time I need to rest my body and mind. Fortunately, I have my anxiety and depression under control most times and while symptoms are usually not severe or persistent, they’re still there and a part of me.
I would like to also touch on this year’s World Mental Health Day theme: mental wellbeing in the workplace. An occasion that really touched me at my old job working in a theater was when we had a small production about post traumatic stress disorder (particularly regarding sexual assault) in veterans. The production was very wary of its audience and took precautions such as plenty of warning before sensitive scenes, no audio in the lobbies for those who needed air and their own counselling service. Additionally, my boss sent out a text to all of us working that show making sure we all would be okay with potentially sitting in on the show (as we usually do for safety reasons). She assured us that at any point in the show if we wanted to leave the theater or even go home, she would support us. My boss also supported all her employees on a regular basis: I remember one of my coworkers got some disheartening news about graduate school and was visibly upset, so my boss gave her a bear hug and let her go home early. Employees are not robots, we have our own lives and problems outside of work and employers should be more sensitive to that.
Instead of shaming people into silence, we should create a platform for them to share their stories and make therapy and medication options more accessible. I hope that starting a conversation will help people understand that mental illness is much more common than we’re lead to believe and the current “treatment” options are not acceptable.
Mental illnesses are a flaw in chemistry, not a flaw in character.