Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No More Pretending: Coming Clean

It's been a while since I have been here, and I do apologize profusely for neglecting you, my blog! With all the changes that has been happening in my life, it's been hard to keep up. My journal entries have been backed up for weeks on end and I always find myself writing for weeks in between to catch up.

Recently deep within me, I have felt a strong sense of untruthfulness. This is not to say that I have been lying through my day to day life per se, but in many ways, I suppose it could be said that I have. I feel that I have been communicating poorly, acting in surprising ways and therefore confusing others and myself. It was not until  I wrote a recent post for Speak Out Blog and a personal hurdle that I decided that I needed to come clean.

In short, I know that I am blessed with good things. I have a family that loves me, good financial and educational situation, friends that care for me and an inkling of a future life. However, being a human that has very human desires, I am bound to fall short and make mistakes. I always want more of myself and the world, and sometimes with my shortcomings I am merciless towards myself.

As a kid, I loved the concept of pretending. You could be who you wanted to be without any pretenses or fears of exposure. As I grew older, I continued to use pretend at great lengths wherever necessary so as to keep my true self from showing.
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But who was my true self? During high school, I didn't know for sure. I went through careless relationships, pushed away true friends and held onto people and things that didn't care for me. High school, while it was a magical and unique time, it was also a difficult time for me.

My true self was always someone that I wanted to prevent the world from knowing - and who could blame me, considering that I know of my true self as somewhat of a Debbie Downer. I didn't like who I was. I was dissatisfied, jealous and felt so worthless. I went through phases of the D word - depression. I was anxious and angry.

The world, as I knew, didn't want another angry and moody teenager, though sometimes my alter ego slipped through my fingers. People told me to suck it up, buttercup - and I did. I held everything inside of me, pressure building until it couldn't hold it in any longer. And when I got angry, people knew. But they didn't know why.

I spent my evenings planning my own demise. What would it feel like to disappear? What would people think, say, or do? How much pain would I feel? All these thoughts began to put a damper on my alter ego, my sunnier ego, and suddenly the two mixed into one and I had no control over the two.

It wasn't until I was ordered by a teacher to go see a counselor that I even began to think that I had an issue. Of course, I didn't go down with a fight. The mere thought of setting foot into that office left a bad feeling inside of me. All my life I had had people whispering behind my back, and I knew that going to see a counselor would make the whispers grow louder behind me.

Unsurprisingly, the help from counselling was what I needed to begin my turn around. My panic attacks began to subside, I felt less angry and more self-confident. I didn't have to pretend that I was happy anymore - I was happy, through and through. It would be unrealistic to say that my 180 came over night - it was a process, and I needed to put a lot of effort into it.

So why share all of this?

I wanted to bring to light one big lesson that I learned throughout my journey. As mentioned before, society, as forward as it may be, seems to still have a hazy cloud around the whole mental illness thing, be it that we don't understand it, we don't get it, or worse, we don't want to acknowledge it. True, medicine has advanced so much that we now have a label for every last disorder and illness, but that doesn't mean that we truly understand it. The stigma that surrounds mental illness is still a big one, and I hope that in time to come, this stigma will diminish with more education and dialogue.

I am not telling us to WebMD ourselves and diagnose every feeling that we have to educate ourselves - that is not closing the door on the stigma. But I hope that people can become more open and more ready to be available to those in need. Why should there be a stigma that going to a counselor makes you a "weirdo"? Why should we be afraid of saying "no, I'm not okay" and explaining why when people ask?

Clearly I am not a doctor or any sort of field expert on the issue.  I am passionate about erasing the stigma of mental illness in our society. I am passionate about helping others get through their hurdles in life, regardless of shape or form. I want you to know that if you are feeling this way, that it is not just a you thing that you have to figure out on your own. There is help everywhere around you - we all need to be open to talk to others, but we also need to be open to accept others as well.

Despite the occasional feelings of high anxiety, stress and panic attacks, I have felt a significant improvement in my life. I couldn't have done it without the support of many - my only regret is not finding help sooner.

Ignorance and fear should not be the norm. We need to stand tall and firm in the face of it and become more aware of it. Through this solidarity, the stigma will diminish.

x R

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