This May, Mental Health Awareness Month means something different to me since I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
Last fall, several things happened. I wasn’t taking care of my body, I was taking a heavy workload of classes, I was back on campus after spending a year abroad, and I wasn’t being honest with myself or with the people around me. A stupid conflict led to a panic attack that lasted several days where I barely ate or left my room, and at my lowest point I called the National Suicide Hotline because I needed to talk to someone, anyone, because I felt so alone, isolated, and helpless. I was taken to the ER and given a diagnosis.
My mom drove down to my school and I got to stay with her for the weekend as I ended relationships with friends, forced myself to eat, and spent a lot of time in counseling. It wasn’t pretty or romantic or graceful, and I sure didn’t deal with it in the most martyred or selfless ways. In short: I screwed up with people. But I refuse to let go of the fact that I crawled my way out of a darkness and fought my way back.
And in the months that followed, I have been blessed by so much. I was able to learn coping techniques and how to take my medication when I have a panic attack, I became closer to God, I made new friends, I fell in love with a wonderful man who makes me feel loved and beautiful and special, I got a 3.82 GPA that semester, finished my senior thesis, started this blog, and realized I have to respect and take care of myself instead of hoping that someone else would.
For years I ignored my panic attacks and fears because they “weren’t that bad.” I put other people’s expectations before my own. I didn’t seek help because I didn’t want to put pressure or be a burden on anyone else. But, at the end of the day, I don’t really regret anything. I learned that I was harboring so much guilt about hurting people that I wasn’t letting myself heal. I learned all the ways that my physical health affects my mental health. I learned to love myself. And I’m still learning how to take care of myself whenever things aren’t perfect.
Writing this post wasn’t easy. Living day-to-day isn’t always easy when I let doubt and fear creep into my mind. But at the end of the day, I’m the first person that needs to fight for my well-being. I have to be my own champion.
So for Mental Health Awareness Month, remind yourself to be your own hero. Fight for your happiness, fight your demons and fight to recognize your own mental health. I’ll be fighting with you.
But before you go, here is one last thing I have to share with you. I made this playlist when I was suffering and lonely, when walking across campus or eating in the cafeteria was hardest. At first I only had about five songs on it. Five songs that could calm me down in my state of panic. Five songs that I could listen to and not feel like I was spiraling out of control. Then, as things got better, I added more songs, and each one has a special meaning to me. Together, this playlist doesn’t remind me of the hard times, but it reminds me that things got better and they will keep getting better.
Keep listening and keep going.