I’d wager that anyone who has experienced a mental illness has felt, at one point or another, that no one can understand what they are going through. In some ways that’s true, as mental illness can manifest differently in everyone, and can even manifest differently in you over time. I spent years focusing in on this and telling myself that there was no point in talking about my anxiety issues since no one knew what to say or knew how I feel. This thought process weighed down on me until I felt like I was living two different lives. So one day, I just decided to give up on hiding this part of me.
The first few times I spoke up about my anxiety problems were some of the scariest moments of my life. It felt like I was exposing too much of myself. Quickly, though, I realized other people felt the same way as me. Not necessarily that their anxiety often led them to run and hide in the bathroom like me, but that they also had this part of them that they had been concealing. Just because someone can’t relate exactly to the way your neuroses work doesn’t mean that they can’t relate to the impact that mental illness has on someone’s life.
On the other side of the spectrum, there were times when I opened up about my anxiety to people who don’t have to deal with mental wellness issues. My opening up allowed me to talk to these people in my life about what I needed from them. Many of these people had tried their hardest to make me feel better during a panic attack—and I appreciate it, I really do—but it’s not helpful at all to me. Being open made me finally able to explain to these people that all they can do is wait it out with me or talk about anything else. People really do want to help, but sometimes the “how” part is not as obvious as we think it is.
Overall, I’m glad I’ve opened up and let people in on my problems. Yes, I’ve been called crazy and unstable by ignorant jerks for telling them about my anxiety, but I’ve also found so many people that make me feel like I’m still normal, despite this struggle. Finally I feel like I’m being my true self and not living two lives or hiding a huge part of who I am.
What happened when you decided to open up? Let us know on Twitter at @feather_mag.