Ridding the Stigma of Mental Health Issues

It's Friday, I walk into my bathroom and hit the light. I stand there, knowingly perplexed by my own reflection. My eyes are pink and puffy again, and as usual, they serve as evidence of yet another night spent crying. I've been crying for days now, weeks, years, lives, my life. And, when someone cries enough tears to end the California drought, it comes with the assumption that there was some kind of traumatic event or death. There was not. The only tragedy at stake here is that of my own existence. Which, to me, is the biggest travesty there is.

Recently it would seem that it has become slightly less taboo to have mental health issues in America. But, in the way a black president made white folks think "racism is so like not a thing anymore," the launch of ghost-slaying Supernatural star, Jared Padalecki's T-shirt campaign, Always Keep Fighting, (which supports people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide) made the more mentally stable think we've come so far. Now, the next time you wonder if you'll ever make it through this terrifying wandering existence you can always look down at your shirt and catch a glimpse of Padalecki's face, and you'll know you are fine. Right?

As someone so young and seemingly so seasoned with mental health issues, I've found that people's reaction to someone struggling with anxiety or depression usually goes one of two ways. They either immediately want you on meds or alternatively, they don't quite believe there is anything more wrong with you than anyone else. My family's stance has always been the latter. A family of five with a perfect cocktail of anxiety, depression, panic disorder, body dysmorphia, ODD, ADD, OCD, Bi Polar depression and "supposedly" undiagnosable anger issues -- we definitely made for the most rambunctious and least sedated family on the block. And it didn't really work too well.

This year as I once again start to fall down the rabbit hole of my own psychosis, I begin to consider the other option, medication. Over the years it has felt to me like I've tried a lot of things: I did therapy, I listened to a meditation podcast, I listened to Deepak Chopra, I've prayed, I've ignored it, I've confessed it, and I think I may have even been hypnotized once, though I'm not completely sure. To me, that seems like just about everything, but the anti-medication activists say I didn't commit enough to any of those things to see the effects. So I'll call it a draw, which brings us back to square one again.

It isn't news that SSRIs have side effects, and while I don't fear the occasional headache, I do fear the numbness and apathy. It's been found that chronic exposure to SSRI antidepressants can often make people feel lethargic or less engaged in their lives, and ultimately more depressed. As someone who wants to feel it all and create engaging and emotional art, a life led numb has never quite been what I was seeking. Also, being only 18, and having very little access to the long term effects of depression and anxiety medication in minors -- I wasn't really running to roll the dice on my brain development.

The line between getting beaten down by the experience of human existence, and having a mental illness always seems to move. I know I lie toward the ill side, and yet I feel very wary to find the antidote to said illness. What if the medication doesn't work and then I have no hope of ever being happy? What if it does work and I become an emotionless drone, good for nothing, except continuing? What if it really does work and I lead a wonderful life, is that okay? Wasn't I imprinted with horrible thoughts, feelings, worries, and emotions for a reason? Or is everything just random?

What should be a logical and simple decision has somehow sparked an existential crisis, which in itself is probably a sign that I should be medicated. But, whether I'm medicated or not, it doesn't seem to solve the problem that people have a real lack of honesty for the way they feel. Living in a society where everyone has to smoke or drink, or pop something, in order to make it through the day feels a little wrong to me and it could be solved (or at least improved) if we just said what we felt.

Living as a human being is like having a deep dark secret that you can't tell anyone about. We walk through each day behaving the way we think we're supposed to, and we never confess how we actually feel -- which is that this is all ridiculous. It's okay to say this is ridiculous, or daunting or strange -- because it is!

Yes, some of us should definitely be medicated -- and I'm one of those people. But, before we run to the bottle perhaps we should at least try every other option, including human connection through honesty. So let's all tell each other how we actually feel and see how that goes first. And when we fail, we can go running to the pills to numb the constant anxiety that you and everyone you know is drifting aimlessly through an unfortunate random existence! Is that so hard to ask?