The morning I found myself sitting on a hospital bed, knees curled toward my chest, my head dull and eyes sunken in, I knew that I had hit a new low. What brought me to the emergency room that day was an ultimatum I had set for myself the night before: either I would get the help that I needed, or I wouldn’t. My desire to treat the toxic concoction of anxiety and depression that had been plaguing me for weeks prior led me to choosing the former. Initially, I was embarrassed and ashamed of, what I thought to be, my incapability of handling normal life stressors – family problems, a breakup, the college transition. I did not want to have to spend my Tuesday surrounded by white walls, wearing a white gown, and be pricked and prodded by needles and questions. I especially did not want anyone to discover that I went to the hospital recently for mental health issues. Still, I question writing this piece to share online.
Even in the wake of high-profile celebrity suicides, like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, mental illness continues to be a taboo subject. Often, people are too quick to judge those who suffer, or they simply never knew that someone was suffering in the first place. As a woman who has battled with depression for over nine years and anxiety for two as well as a psychology student, I find it extremely important to continue breaking the stigma of mental illness.
Unfortunately, some people will never take the time to sympathize and understand. I had a friend laugh at me when I told him about my day spent in the ER. Several nurses seemed skeptical toward me because in their eyes I didn’t ‘look’ depressed – whatever that means. I don’t write this for pity or to portray myself as a victim. I know how strong I am because I know the courage that it takes to go to the hospital for help.
It takes courage to seek out counseling, therapy, and medication.
It takes courage to reach out to a family member or support group in a desperate moment.
It takes courage to live a life full of meaning when depression and anxiety are always lingering in the dark corner, waiting for another vulnerable moment to pounce.
It takes courage to share my story, for fear of judgment and alienation are always in the back of my mind, but if I can help just one person through a rough time and potentially prevent another tragedy from occurring, then I believe I have done my job as a human being.
When I returned home later that Tuesday afternoon, I made sure to surround myself with family, friends, my journal, positive quotes, my two dogs, ice cream, and movies that I love; just little reminders that everything would be okay. I also made sure to rid every toxic person out of my life for good.
It is important to never allow fear to overcome your power of courage. Even if the fear stems from a confused family member, a mean-spirited friend, or a disinterested doctor, it is better to receive the help you need rather than to let it go untreated. For every person who doesn’t understand your mental illness, there are thousands more who do. Anxiety and depression are highly treatable mental illnesses. Stop suffering and asking for help now.