If there's one thing I've learned in the past six years, it's that I'm not alone. I used to think I was unique--going to a therapist, dealing with anxiety, depression, and OCD while in high school. I felt as though there was no one else going through what I was going through. Throughout the years, there have been people who have showed me otherwise, and they probably don't know it. They'll see this post on their Facebook feed and scroll by it, unaware of how dramatically they changed my life.
Their help was unintentional, but not unwarranted. It was the little comments that helped me along, like a friend who casually said, "Oh, my therapist showed me that" in conversation, helping me to realize I wasn't the only one who saw a therapist. Maybe he saw something in me, or maybe they just wanted to show that they also were going through the same experiences.
There's one moment that I'll always remember. I was 15 years old, sitting in the waiting room at the therapist's office, and I looked up from my book to see a girl I went to school with. I didn't know her very well, and we barely had talked to each other in the five years we'd been going to school together. But seeing her sit across from me, looking just as scared as I did, was all the confirmation I needed that my experiences were not unique. We both looked embarrassed and never spoke about it again. I never saw her there again, but it was such a pivotal moment for me.
Growing up, we're taught to hold two personas: our public selves and our private selves. We are made to believe that certain facts about our lives and identities are shameful and should be treated as secrets stowed away deep within.
Society dictates that seeking help is a sign of weakness. While no one told me this, I grew up thinking that struggling with anxiety, OCD and depression was shameful. My family was extremely supportive, but still I thought seeing a therapist meant there was something wrong with me. I felt like one of those defective toys that they mark the price down on because it's flawed. I saw myself as a broken toy meant to be "fixed." But as I know now, I'm not alone in this. Like me, there are thousands of college students who similarly struggle and see a therapist. The American Psychological Association reported that as of 2013 48.7% of college students had sought out help from a mental health professional. And more so, 30% of college students reported feeling depressed, which inhibited their ability to focus on their schoolwork.
The more and more we talk about mental health issues and come out of the shadows to be vulnerable as a society, the more I realize that I'm just a normal toy. I'm not defective.
Even writing this now is hard, but if we don't talk about how we're feeling then we just keep wandering around thinking that we're alone--but the truth is, we aren't. The past six years have taught me that I'm strong, and I wouldn't change a thing about myself. Yes, I see a therapist and deal with mental health issues, but as we as a society talk more openly about these issues I realize that so do millions of other people. So thank you, every friend of mine who has casually mentioned their therapist in conversation, or not reacted dramatically when I've mentioned mine. Thank you, to everyone, friends and family, who have accepted me for who I am. Thank you, girl who sat in the waiting room with me, for showing me that I'm not alone.