Behind Patricia's Mind
“You are so bubbly and so full of life, your smile lights up the world” are always the words used to describe my personality by everyone around me - but there is much more behind that smile of mine that only a fraction of people know about and understand. So, naturally, when my anxiety and depression caught up to me and started affecting my academics, friendships and relationships, a lot of people didn’t understand why I “changed” or was “acting differently.”
At the time, I didn’t like talking about or opening up about my mental health because of the number of times my feelings were dismissed with, “you’re overreacting, it’s not that big of a deal;” “you’ll get over it;” or “just relax and focus on your work.” I was told that I was being weak, emotional and I blow everything out of proportion - people got mad at me for my deteriorating mental health. In reality, these expressions and reactions pushed me further away from everyone around me - it made me feel like it wasn’t okay to feel the way I did and I felt so alone. It became so incredibly difficult to complete day-to-day tasks like getting out of bed, taking a shower or eating my meals, let alone attending my classes. Every time that I didn’t make it to class, I faulted myself and I beat myself up for it. I was so unhappy, I cried so much and I was in so much pain - it was so frustrating to have to fight with myself and my mind when I was alone but then have to put up a front to give everyone that smile otherwise. I retracted from seeing people and secluded myself, which ultimately just made me feel even more alone. This is probably the scariest part about struggling with mental health, the internal conflict you have with yourself is invisible and it’s not tangible. Sometimes it’s hard to even pinpoint exactly what is bothering me or triggering my breakdown. This makes it even more frustrating and difficult, leading me into what feels like an endless downwards spiral.
It wasn’t until my anxiety affected my academics so detrimentally that my sorority sister noticed and began reaching out to me. Instead of forcing me to talk to her from the get-go, she eased me into it by talking to me about her struggle with mental health. She provided a safe and comfortable environment for me to open up. Although some of her experiences differ from mine and her struggle with mental health looked different from mine, hearing that she, too, was consistently fighting with herself made me realize that I wasn’t alone. I’ve since begun to talk more about my mental health, I tried counselling/ therapy and even considered medication. Everyone will cope with their struggles with mental health differently and the methods that work for me may not work for everyone. Personally, with the help of my doctors and friends, I chose against medication and I learned that when it comes to therapy or opening up to friends, it’s not “one size fits all.” You’ll find that certain friends or counsellors/ therapists understand certain situations better and are better equipped to support you through those situations and others who are good for other situations.
There’s no “perfect” or “best” method to cope with mental health and it’s unfortunately a lot of trial and error to figure out what works best for you. I know this sounds daunting and exhausting but if there is anything that I learned throughout my journey, it is the importance of wanting to be helped. Without wanting to be helped, it is incredibly difficult for anyone to help you no matter how much they want to or how much you want them to. It’s hard to get through to your mind because you don’t even want to get through to your own mind. I know that it’s scary to try to open up to someone about your mental health and not everyone will be helpful, but I urge you to try and talk to those you trust. I encourage you to keep learning, keep listening, and to keep an open mind about mental health.
The struggle with mental health is not something that will magically go away, but the more you work on finding ways to cope and letting yourself be supported and helped, the better equipped you will be in coping in times of struggle. Personally, when I’m feeling low, I try to talk to someone I trust, who I know will support me, and get them to just listen - sometimes, all you need is someone to hear you out and tell you it’s okay. I also try to put on my favourite song or playlist or watch a show or movie that I enjoy. If I have the energy, what I find helps me is going to the gym or even just out for a walk. Being outside surrounded by other people and feeling the fresh air really does help to clear your head and put you in a better mindset.
You are stronger than you think you are, you are important and you matter. Don’t give up and practice wanting to be helped. I can say without question or doubt that there are so many people that want to help you, so please let them. I promise you that it makes a world of difference ♥️