Mental health

Why I can talk about my mental health so casually

I was at work, chatting to a friend about my upcoming trip to my psychiatrist.

It’s my anxiety, I said. It’s been acting up again. I might need to go back on meds. My heart keeps racing and my palms are even sweatier than usual. Breathing is a challenge despite me being stationary in front of the computer for 8 hours.

I barely noticed another friend of mine sidling up, apparently listening to the conversation. I gave him a brief acknowledgement before going right back to my story.

I’ve never heard someone talk about seeing a therapist as casually as you do, he said when I finished.

I shrugged. It’s not something I’m totally ashamed of.

My mind is ill, and I need help to fix it.

For me, it’s really that simple: I’m sick and I need professionals to help me get better. It took a long time for me to recognize that my depression and anxiety are not ingrained personal defects, nor are they the sole defining aspects of my personality.

I talk about those diagnoses casually because I refuse to be held hostage by stigma. For years, I didn’t go to therapy because what would other people say?

In college, when I met with our guidance counselor, I was mortified when my peers found out. I distinctly remember a classmate looking at me oddly, as though after seeing me daily for nearly two years, she only just noticed that I had tentacles sprouting out of my head. The collective thought was so loud, I could nearly hear it: how could a person as outwardly cheery as me have depression?

I like to think that I defy the (incorrect) stereotype that depressives are extreme introverts who never speak, smile, or socialize.

I am constantly yammering away, laughing my ass off, and I surround myself with people who love me. The contrast of my disposition against my diagnoses throws a lot of people off. I’m fine with that.

I’ve found that people are a lot less hesitant to seek professional help if they know someone who does the same. Ever since I began speaking about my struggles with mental health, I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and tell me that they’re thinking of talking to a psychologist, too. So I’ll continue to be as open about my diagnosis as I can. I want others to take comfort in the knowledge that they’re not alone. Let’s normalize the conversation on mental health.

Ela is a twentysomething who is constantly getting stuck in self-destructive behavior and bouts of low self-esteem. She struggles with depression and writes to relieve herself of her feelings. Sometimes she even blogs about other things like makeup and positivity. One of her pieces was published in the Inquirer Young Blood in October 2017. She likes cats, dogs, and sometimes even people.

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