I have struggled with a combination of anxiety and depression since I was a teenager. While most people typically view setbacks in a negative light, I am quite the opposite. I am proud, not ashamed, to say that mental health has played a significant role in shaping the person I am. My fight with mental health has strengthened my character in ways I did not even know were possible.
In modern culture, there is a seemingly skewed perception of what mental health entails. We often hear “she’s depressed about that boy” or “he’s anxious about college applications” or “she’s super OCD about her class notes.” What many people fail to recognize is that these feelings are not what constitutes having a mental health disorder. As human beings, we all feel anxious and sad from time to time – however, embodying the disorder is a million times more complex than just an emotion.
I am always immediately consumed with frustration when this happens – a topic as delicate as mental health should not be carelessly tossed around in conversation.
These people just don’t get it.
They don’t get how it feels to fall victim to mental health; to feel weak and helpless. How it feels to not even know what triggered a panic attack. How it feels to know your thoughts are irrational but you still can’t control them, i.e. if I don’t wash my hands before bed something bad will happen to my family. I wish I was joking but I’m not **insert nervous laugh here**.
In my eyes, the most significant aspect of mental health disorders is that no person’s symptoms are exactly like another’s – yet there is still a common ground that we can all relate to – pain. Pain is shared experience.
There is not one person on this earth who has not felt pain in some way, shape, or form. In the same way that we need water to physically survive, we need to feel pain at some point in order to emotionally survive. To be empathetic.
My empathy for others has grown exponentially and intensely since I was diagnosed. I feel everything in life so deeply – be it my experience, a friend’s, or someone’s I just met.
So, thanks mental health – for helping me discover the importance of empathy. We all need more of it in our lives.