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Shake the Shame, Put Mental Health First

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“You should get professional help.” I literally never thought I would hear someone tell me those words.

It wasn’t until I realized what a mess I had became, that made me admit it was time to see a therapist. The young lady who once had it all together, with all the answers, was now a lost soul just struggling to make sense out of the world. It was like a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. I felt myself slipping into a dark area that was unfamiliar to me and didn’t know how to stop. Though I was physically in one place, my mind was somewhere else: A scary place of hopelessness.

The only problem was, this wasn’t a dream. It was my life.

Before I felt relief that there was someone who could “fix me,” I was mortified more than anything. I came from a Caribbean family where failure was not an option, so admitting I was different, mentally, was not something I could expect sympathy for. In my head, I wasn’t allowed to be weak due to both my background and pride.

For my first appointment, I wore a tight baseball cap and even switched my everyday bag so no one would notice me going into the on-campus mental health clinic.

I found myself sitting in front of a total stranger that, for some reason, I felt protected with. Her stare was intense, but her smile was warm. For a long time, I forgot what it felt like to belong somewhere. Sitting with her, I found it again.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect 18% of the population. That’s 40 million adults 18 years and older. While our older generations have this morphed thought that because we “don’t have any responsibilities yet,” there’s no reason to be stressed. However, living in the fast times of social media and the insecurities they can cause are huge factors in anxiety. Not to mention maintaining an active social life, juggling school, and getting pushed into the adult world.

Regardless of the different causes, victims of depression and anxiety often share an unfavorable common denominator: Embarrassment. Too often do we allow the thoughts of others to overcome what is best for ourselves. While we suffer silently, the world continues to rotate whether we’re ready for the next day to come or not. The negative stigma behind therapy has become so strong that the importance of mental health has been overshadowed by the importance of physical appearance.

When you’re ready to get your summer body together, there’s never any shame in going to the gym and getting a personal trainer to help you concentrate on your body’s “problem areas.” People find pride in making that step. Ironically, seeking mental help is the same process, yet we rarely see the same satisfaction. It all comes down to recognizing your worth.

Is your life worth pursuing your dreams? Is embarrassment worth holding back your blessings? Are you worth being happy or are you worth being content?

At a time where I felt fate was pitted against me, it was my faith that strengthened me. It wasn’t in anyone else’s power to bring me happiness, but my own, and if talking to a therapist was going to give steps towards my pursuit, I was going to do it. Session after session, I felt like a caterpillar slowing coming out into the butterfly I knew I was suppose to be. I left behind the chaos and anxiety I was causing myself and regained the confidence I thought was lost. Who would’ve thought talking to a complete stranger would do that.

Don’t accept judgment as the decision making factor for what makes you who you are, or should be. Seeking help doesn’t make you weak. Being self-aware enough to want better for yourself is the strongest attribute a person can have.

XOXO
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