When I was younger, I never understood what mental health was. I went to a private school where we were never taught anything about depression, anxiety, ADHD/ADD, OCD, bipolar, etc. So you can imagine how confused I was as a girl who was diagnosed with anxiety at age nine while attending this school. I convinced myself that I was weird, and I’m 100% sure that I convinced all my other classmates that too, since we didn’t know anything. I hated all the emotions I was feeling at the time, and I hated even more how I could never put them to words and express them. I felt so alone.
When I transferred from elementary school to middle school, I no longer felt alone. Almost EVERYONE openly talked about their struggles. There were people who’d spill everything about their depression, their eating disorders, etc. It became a normalized stigma… but only now as a sophomore in high school do I realize that mental illnesses weren’t normalized then as much as they are now.
Instead, depression, eating disorders, and anxiety were being glamourized by the media, and a bunch of 11-14 year olds bought into it, and made it a daily routine of our lives. That’s where it all started for us.
You have shows and movies cascading a mental breakdown with neon lights and aesthetic music. Now of course in some shows that’s not their intention; in fact, most of them are trying to find a way for people with mental illnesses to relate. But, it’s almost ironic how they tried to advertise mental illnesses while inflicting some of the causes for people’s pain by displaying unrealistic body expectations, advertising what “perfect” lifestyles looked like, and displaying characters with only the stereotypes of their mental illnesses. Not only that, but TV shows typically stay clear of the true downfalls or mental illnesses. They never show you the chipped nail polish on nails, the messy room, the missing assignments, the non-showering for three days straight, the binge-eating, or the gut feeling once you realize how alone you are.
So our real mental breakdowns compared to the ones on TV are highly contradicted, which can make us feel more alone with our struggles. Even worse, sometimes the characters in these shows just bounce back magically, or are shown coping with their problems in very self-destructing ways, encouraging even more bad behavior and ultimately making things worse.
Your life is not some dramatic Netflix show where things are going to magically become perfectly fine next episode. When you’re not in a good mental state of mind and are aware of it, 1) That’s a great starting point to become aware of the emotions you are experiencing and 2) You have to get help somehow and work on improving your mental state of mind. Now, that’s probably not what you want to hear at all during these hard times in your life, but the only way for things to get better is by starting with you. And I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be rough. Every day is going to be a challenge in some way. Some days you’ll feel on top of the world while other days you’ll just feel so tired of trying. But what’s important for you is that you keep feeling all of these different emotions and that you keep going.
There’s no script in your life. It’s up to you to write your own destiny and goals. It’s up to you to wake up every morning and fight through what the world throws at you. It’s up to you to realize that no matter what, things are going to get better even if they don’t seem like it in the moment.