I’m Crying While Writing This
I write self-help books for a living—how to live stress-free, how to be the most productive version of yourself, how to become wealthy, how to get great sleep, and so on. I think the most ironic part about my job is that I am probably every bad example that I use in my books.
I get paid to help other people, and then I pay my therapist to help me. Sure, I know that I do a lot of work on my own to get my mental health in check. I make to-do lists, stay busy, seek creative outlets, and bask in the presence of my favorite people. There is so much more to being mentally ill than self-care bubble baths and having a good laugh.
Mental Illness is Not By the Book
I do not have a medical background, but I have written enough psychology-themed eBooks that suggest otherwise. Not only do I know a lot about mental illness through my job, but I have been facing it since I was a child. My obsessions and compulsions were very intense when I was around 7–12. Going into any public space meant that I had to touch a certain color or visit a certain section before I could leave.
I remember thinking that these rituals were normal, and they were at the time. Without knowing that other people did not have to perform them, I was a little confused when my parents looked at me with concern after I spent minutes at a time in front of the lettuce and cabbage. The watering system was on, and I remember deeply inhaling the fresh aroma. I couldn’t leave until this happened.
I feared that something bad would happen if I did not complete my rituals. While these faded into more subtle nuances once I became an adult, I still struggle with the feeling today. I often feel that something terrible is going to happen if I do not check that my car window is closed one more time or make sure that my ID is in my wallet.
These compulsions can be very inconvenient—i.e. me being comfortable in bed at 2 AM, wanting to fall asleep. No matter what, I need to get up to check… Just in case. It is hard to explain something like this to someone who has not felt it. These fixations are not quite like anxiety. In fact, they bring me a lot of peace when I tend to them. Throughout the years, I have learned to (mostly) ignore them. This bypasses the feeling that doomsday is coming.
I Am No Longer Depressed
By the time I reached my teenage years, the depression hit hard. I had a great childhood with two loving parents that were still together. My social life was healthy, and I was well-liked by my peers. Not to mention, I was a very established martial artist with countless trophies in tow.
Sometimes, I think that I had it so easy when I was younger because I had to prepare myself for the shitstorm later on. Many people who know me understand that I struggle with mental illness because of what happened to my dad. He went missing; he has been missing for 11 years. What many do not realize is that my depression was well-established before this happened. This is one thing that I got to talk to my dad about.
I’m not glad that I got to tell him about my anorexia and unwillingness to reach 90lbs or how I cut myself every night before bed, but at the same time, I am. It was the last serious conversation that I had with him before he left on that trip. When I reached my 20s, I thought that mental illness would magically disappear. To me, it seemed that being mentally ill was synonymous with being a teenager—I was wrong.
I was still cutting and still depressed when I moved to the West Coast. This was an ongoing battle for the next several years, filling my early-mid 20s with a lot of difficulties. I even experienced an anorexia relapse. The reason why I am telling you this is because I want to normalize mental illness—all of it. No matter what you are going through or how old you are, the way you feel is valid.
Not only this, but there are opportunities for you to seek help. I went many years without help. The main reason was that I could not afford it. This is one of the biggest downfalls of the American healthcare system, but that’s a different article. I tried my best, and it is okay that I could not get through it on my own.
Mental Illness Will Always Fluctuate
There are some days that I feel I no longer need to see my therapist. I do not know what to talk about, and I realize that I am almost 30-years-old with an established life. I’m here, living this life. Then, reality hits me suddenly. I am faced with a moment of depression or a flash of mania. I remember things that still haunt me, and I struggle with the idea that the unknown is the backbone of my life to this day.
I’ll usually laugh to myself, finding it comical that I thought I no longer needed therapy just because time has passed or because of my age. To tell you the truth, I firmly believe I will always benefit from therapy or resources similar. This is nothing to feel ashamed of, and I encourage you to get help to the best of your ability.
Nobody made me go to therapy—this was the case when I was a teenager, as well. Each time that I went to see a nutritionist, therapist, or psychologist, this has been on my own accord. I am very happy with my most recent decision to get back into therapy. Now, if my therapist ever reads this, I think I’ll feel awkward. Hey, if you’re reading this. My point remains—this is your sign to seek help.
You no longer need to live at war with your own brain. I can only speak on my own mental illness journey, but I know that hearing about the candid experiences of others helps me. It shows me that I am truly never as alone as I think I am, that there is nothing wrong with me or unfixable. This is me, and this is how my brain operates.
Instead of trying to fight against it, learn ways to work with it. Sometimes, these things are always going to be a part of you, but you have my word that it does get easier. Even during my weakest moments, I still know that this is true.
If you need help with your mental illness, click here now. The National Institute of Mental Health has compiled options that range from text lines, hotlines, and a treatment provider search tool.