This Is What Mental Illness Looks Like

This Is What Mental Illness Looks Like
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I am 26 years old, and I currently live at home. I flunked out of university my freshman year as a basketball player on a partial scholarship, and I was in and out of community college for several years until I could gain some focus. I guess you can say it's taken me some time to find direction in my life. I'm someone with mental illness, and mental illness has a way of consuming a person. I've got depression and anxiety, which is just a concoction of fuckery, and the effects can feel agonizing. Anxiety and depression can be very crippling. Getting through each day can feel like a chore, waking up each morning can feel like a curse, and overall it's just miserable. Throughout the years I've had a handful of different therapists. I have been fortunate to find a psychotherapist that is affordable and sincere, and I have been consistently seeing her for a few years now.

I have made a lot of progress since working with my therapist, and this past year I made it through something I never thought I would be willing to share. Last year I had some of the most trying months of my life. I felt like a zombie. I was going through the motions of my everyday life. I didn't recognize myself. I didn't feel like myself. I would fake many of my emotions and tell loved ones I was "fine" and that I was just going through a "rough period." This was not a rough period. Being disappointed at the fact that I would wake each morning was not fine. Hating my existence was not fine. Wanting to end my life was not fine. If I wasn't locked in my room then I was either at work or at a therapy session. Having to hear your therapist ask in almost every session, "Do you have a plan?" This is not a sign of being fine or just having a rough period. I was dishonest with many people: my friends, my family, and even my therapist. I had plans to end my life; however, I was not convinced any of them were foolproof.

I was more concerned with burdening loved ones than wanting to live. How do you explain to someone that you're having difficulty coping with life? How do you begin to tell someone that you no longer wish to be alive? Almost every day I found myself reading through Reddit's thread: [Serious] Parent's of children who have committed suicide, could you explain the experience? I don't think deep down I wanted to end my life. I did want to end my suffering. I was convinced that my life did not matter, that all I did was take up space, and that no one understood what I was feeling.

These are all things I once felt ashamed to admit. The shame I associated with needing professional help, the shame I've associated with my journey in life taking a bit longer than others, the embarrassment I've felt for my parents and myself because I could never seem to get things right -- these are burdens I no longer wish to carry.

The truth is, I have no reason to be ashamed. This is not something a person can just snap out of. There is no quick fix. There is no waking up each day and telling myself to be happy. There is no off switch for depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, thinking positive is not something that can defeat mental illness, and I can't pray mental illness away. What I can do is acknowledge the feelings and thoughts that arise each day. I can remind myself that I am not alone, and I can be patient with myself and just continue to take things one day at a time. This is what mental illness looks like.


If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

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