Mental illness has been the most challenging setback in my life. I have been diagnosed with various mental health disorders over the past ten years, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
I began struggling with many aspects of my life that came naturally to me before, such as doing well in school, being a top athlete, and having a robust social network. I did not know why this was happening. I associated my lack of success with being incompetent as an individual, instead of an underlying mental illness. After realizing that my mental health was the root cause of this, I decided not to speak up. The stigma associated with mental health is real. I did not want to be perceived as weak by coaches, teammates, and peers. I refused to put myself in that situation.
I went on without talking about what I was going through for a while. I insisted on pretending that I was okay. Over time my mind became so unhealthy that I could no longer function adequately. I stopped going to school. I quit playing sports. I ended up reaching a point where I stayed in my room all day, lying on my bed. I would close my eyes and wish everything I was thinking and feeling would go away. I wanted to escape my body; what I was feeling was unbearable. One day, I finally broke down. I could not hold it in any longer.
I was fortunate enough to have a supportive family who tried providing me with the resources I needed. However, for a while, I refused. I let my pride and ignorance get the best of me. I would tell myself that if I went to a therapy session or worked with a Psychiatrist, I would never forgive myself; I thought that it would mean I was accepting that I was not only weak but “crazy.”
I never proactively took care of my mind or spoke up about what I was going through during high school. I became so unhappy. I was so hard on myself since I was not meeting my expectations, and I was trying hard to be perfect. The pressure was unbearable.
Life became much more demanding in college right off the bat. After a month or two, I reached a point where it was as if I was right back where I started. I could not shake the feelings or thoughts.
My first semester of college was a nightmare. I almost failed all of my classes, I was in a toxic relationship, and I came down with an illness that prevented me from playing my varsity sport in the last half of the season. I set myself up to fail by refusing to take care of my mental well-being for the second time. At this point, it was clear that I needed to accept that I needed help. I had no other choice; so much depended on it.
After my first therapy session and psychiatrist appointment, I soon realized that there was no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed that I was getting help. I started feeling better and better after each session. The constant pain in my chest started to go away. I learned tools that helped me cope with my racing thoughts. The medications I started taking help with the stubborn depression. My performance on the field improved. My participation in class and test scores went up. I started interacting more with my teammates and peers. I have been in a healthy, incredible relationship with my girlfriend for over two years now.
It’s great to wake up each day feeling excited about what’s to come.