I don’t know if I understood it at the time, but both anxiety and depression have phased in and out of my life since I was young. I was bullied heavily when I was younger, which presented its challenges, but also grew up in an enthusiastic family who did not let it define me. This was both a blessing and a curse in that I became an expert at hiding the pain. I have always had an active imagination and could often escape discomfort with creative outlets, smiling through the pain, and adapting my personality quickly to avoid standing out. I have now come to understand these methods as coping mechanisms but at the time I did not see it that way, I saw it as a way to pass the time. Time for me has always been a great equalizer. Time can be a savior when you're needing to know a bad moment or feeling isn't going to last forever, but it can also represent permanence.
When I was in my late teen's early twenties, I traveled a lot. I was finding my way through the nonprofit world while pursuing my bachelor's and often away from home. It was an exciting time in my life when I probably felt the most confident in myself and my conviction, but every couple of months, time would catch up with me and I would grow terribly homesick. Yet, once the feeling came, there was no avoiding it; I remember how important it was to listen to that need. The image of my parents waiting for me at the airport, giving me hugs, cooking my favorite meals, or the familiar sounds and smells of home kept me centered. These moments became priceless to me and helped me to realize that mental health is not something that has to be complicated, it just has to make sense to me.
These moments became priceless to me and helped me to realize that mental health is not something that has to be complicated, it just has to make sense to me.
As time passed work served as my greatest blessing and vice. I came to rely on it until my ambition and work ethic were what, in many ways, defined me. It was not until my ability changed, and I lost control, that I realized that it is not healthy to let something superficial define you. In 2020, after months of losing physical ability over an 8-month time period, it was determined that I had developed mirror brain aneurysms and had pushed through the pain for so long that I nearly died from it. Pain, whether it be emotional, physical, or otherwise is present for our own self-awareness, it helps keep you honest.
In March of 2021, I lost my father to Lymphoma. He had been diagnosed in 2018,
but shortly after my recovery from the brain surgery, he disclosed another adaption of cancer had formed and we lost him within a week. My depression returned by way of insomnia. I would stay up for days at a time, heartbroken, unable to heal, because the thought of not having him present in my life was just too much to comprehend. I went from being a top performer at work to a source of gossip and a burden, and my body started shutting down. I remember trying to talk myself out of it; I tried medication, re-focusing my attention, but it was like I was frozen, just going through the motions and trapped in my head.
It took a moment of humbling reality to finally bring me to a place of healing. I remember being referred to as a "that" in reference to reporting my eyes had closed at the end of the day while working. My supervisor was aware of the struggles I was having, acknowledged the comment, and was set to move on, but instead, I stood up. I said: “I am not a ‘that’ - I am a human being.” I said to them, I understand that I am struggling right now and not at my best, but I am trying to do better, and I am still me. For me, that moment was freeing.
It is only when I chose to be vulnerable to the process that I started to heal and get to know myself in a way that I had never taken the time to before - because healing, mental health, and acceptance are all individualized.
A lot of the time outsiders looking in will put a time limit on how long they are willing to bear witness to your pain and all that is involved with that pain. It is important to take the time and steps needed to find your way in your own time. It is only when I chose to be vulnerable to the process that I started to heal and get to know myself in a way that I had never taken the time to before - because healing, mental health, and acceptance are all individualized. We are all worth “the trouble” and share the commonality of being perfectly imperfect.
If you are in crisis, call 988 or text NAMI to 741741 for 24/7 mental wellness and/or crisis support. If you are facing challenges related to substance use or mental health, you may call the Illinois Warm Line at 866-359-7953. Visiting this NAMI page as well as contacting the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-6265 or firstname.lastname@example.org will connect you to information related to numerous needs and concerns.