…A day late, but still worth posting…
To shine your brightest, you must accept every piece of yourself. Your perfections, your flaws, your ignorance, your knowledge, your future, and your past. You can’t really understand yourself if you continue to hide your cracks not only from the world but from your own eyes as well. At least, that’s what people told me. I didn’t truly learn this lesson until I sat down in my first therapy session and finally accepted the truth about myself.
I have depression and social anxiety.
It took me until I turned 24 to admit that I had been dealing with mental illness. Looking back, I realized I had been dealing with them for years. Almost 10 to be exact. I remember the feelings of absolute darkness, loneliness, and helplessness. I remember the scissors I kept in my backpack for the moments of intense self-hatred, self-loathing and personal blame. I remember crying out for help, begging my closest family and friends for help. I remember my parents saying that I was simply being an overdramatic teenager. I remember my father laughing in my face. I remember my boyfriend calling me crazy. In the years when I needed the most help, I received the most rejection.
Even when I was able to get help, I refused it. If the relationships from my past taught me anything, it was that no one would understand me. My mental health was something to be ashamed of, something to hide. By admitting who I was, I would be opening myself up to more rejection, more pain, and more suffering. I learned that it was better to hate myself in silence than to seek help. That was until I could not ignore it anymore.
When I left for graduate school, I moved from California to Oregon, from a large city to a small town, from constant sunshine to weeks with endless rain, from a family that once loved and accepted me to being disowned by nearly everyone I once knew. My wife and I were scared for what would happen. Would I drop out of school? Would I hurt myself again? It was enough fear to make me do something long overdue, to finally get help.
In my moments of complete vulnerability and shame, I was able to do the one thing I never thought possible, I was able to accept myself. To understand myself. To love myself. It took me a decade to figure out that stars burn brightest in the darkest of skies. My depression and anxiety are not pieces of me to be ashamed of, to hate, or to hide, they are pieces that make me stronger. Mental illness doesn’t make me weak, it makes me the exact opposite. My strength is in living with it, beating it, and accepting it every single day.