Why we all need to keep talking about mental health

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Growing up, I genuinely thought I was a freak (don’t we all?) because I was very different from all of my friends. I know we all go through feelings of uncertainty, feeling like we don’t quite belong, but this wasn’t a case of growing pains or mistaken identity. Unknown to both myself and my family for years, I was suffering with bouts of severe anxiety. Unfortunately for me it was always mislabelled as home sickness or even being overly dramatic, but I knew that something was seriously wrong with me. A major problem in figuring out exactly what it was that plagued me (and continues to do so to this day) was that I knew of nobody that was like me - there was no reference for me to draw upon or awareness to educate me. Invalidated for so long and constantly told to ‘grow up’ or ‘stop being silly’ have ultimately caused me so much damage and heartbreak. These confusing and frustrating experiences with anxiety as a teenager have shaped me far more radically than they perhaps would’ve if both myself and the people around me knew a bit more about mental health. 

It’s without saying that this was no ones fault - my parents had about as much knowledge as I did regarding what was going on, so it’s no wonder they didn’t know how to handle me. I was only in my preteen years when the anxiety started to become more of a problem, and let’s not forget that this was over ten years ago, so the resources were not the same as they are now - abundant and readily available. Whether through ignorance, lack of empathy or being spread too thin, teachers didn’t even really pick up on the problems I was having and if they did, nothing was done to help me. 

Luckily for all of us who have experienced a mental illness at one point or another in their lives, a lot has changed in the last decade. The blossoming of social media platforms, the inspiring leap forward in support and the advances in understanding and care have quite frankly changed the game. That isn’t to say that we can now become complacent - far from it. The masses are just grasping the understanding of some of the most common illnesses like anxiety and depression, mostly thanks to the growing movement to share our stories, but there is still a lot left to navigate. The change in attitude has been magnificent to witness but we’re certainly not there yet. For the sake of 13 year old me, the girl who was terrified and seemingly alone, I’m going to continue to push for progress. Are you?