I am not what you would consider a “brave” person. I don’t spend my free time saving people from burning buildings or rescuing puppies, and though I love horror movies, those dang jump scares still get me every time. But, sometimes, all it takes to change your entire world is one small, seemingly insignificant moment of courage. That moment, for me? It was the moment I decided to seek out help to deal with my mental illness.
Leading up to this decision, I suppose there were several “warning signs” throughout my adolescence that went unnoticed by both myself and the people around me. I’ve always been an extremely anxious person, imagining the absolute worst outcome in any given situation. I’ve also always felt extremely self-conscious of how other people, particularly those I respect, view me. However, my breaking point came during the fall semester of my junior year of college. I struggled the most I’ve ever struggled with school– not only because of the demanding workload of my classes that semester, but also because they were forcing me to confront these darker parts of myself that I usually could keep under control. In my choral conducting class (I’m studying music education), I had panic attacks nearly every single week because I could not bear the pressure of my colleagues watching and critiquing my conducting gesture. To be clear, I am not a shy person, and public speaking and performing do not make me nervous in other contexts. Something about this particular class, this particular act of conducting, this particular audience of my peers and professors, completely undid me. I would also call my parents crying every week after another class that gave me extreme anxiety that was only made worse by the actions and expectations of the professor. It got to a point, in mid-September, where I was calling my mom crying every single day. There were days when I couldn’t leave my apartment because my anxiety was so crippling. I wasn’t sleeping, and my mind was trapped in vicious negative thought spirals 24/7. This was, looking back, probably the worst few weeks of my life.
A few days later, after another tear-filled call to my mom (who had been urging me to visit the campus counseling center for weeks now), I realized how much my mental illness was taking a toll on my loved ones. I started to see that none of us were equipped to deal with what I was going through. Still, actually going to the counseling center, or even just calling a mental health hotline, felt like an absolutely insurmountable step. I just… couldn’t force myself to do it, no matter how much I was suffering. My self-worth and confidence had been absolutely decimated by my social anxiety (which, when I finally did get help, I was diagnosed with), and I think I felt that getting help would be admitting defeat, in some way. In any case, I am endlessly thankful for my mom, who, though she lives out of state, basically forced me to go to the counseling center on campus. She called them and told them to expect me that day, and somehow, that gave me the incentive I needed to finally do a walk-in consultation there. I cannot emphasize enough how thankful I am to my mom for giving me that push. If she hadn’t, I have no idea if I would have ever mustered the courage to go.
That day, the day of my first walk-in appointment at the counseling center, is the day that things started looking up. Not only did I find a therapist who I loved and who made me feel heard and valid, but it enabled me to find a psychiatrist and start medication that helps me be a functioning human every day. As someone who is very logic-minded, going to a psychiatrist and getting an official diagnosis (generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and major depressive disorder, in case you were curious) made me instantly feel so much better about things. I could finally put a name to these things that had plagued me for months. Therapy was endlessly helpful to me because it gave me strategies for coping on difficult days, and for preventing some of the difficult days by taking preemptive measures. And, like I mentioned, the medication I take for my anxiety and depression has changed my entire life and alleviated so many of my worst symptoms.
Since that day, I’ve had a few bad mental health episodes. Things aren’t perfect all the time, but I find comfort in the fact that I will never again reach that dark place I did in fall 2016, because now, I know that I can reach out and that things will get better when I do. The point of all of this is to say, I know that getting help is hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But, lovelies? It’s so, so worth it. YOU are worth it. As cliche as it sounds, things will get better. I know making the decision to get help can feel impossible. I maintain that it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. But, like I said at the beginning of this post, sometimes all it takes is a split second of bravery. You, dear reader, have that spark of bravery inside you. I’m rooting for you.