Allowing Mental Health

I am so excited to be a young adult during this time in the U.S. when mental health is starting to be looked at differently. Not to say that it is perfect … far from it. People are more willing though these days. Willing to recognize that a good majority of us have something difficult in our head that we are ALLOWED to look at and talk about. Medication is becoming more mainstream and people aren’t being hospitalized for minor things like they used to ‘back in the day’. We are having the space to speak up for ourselves. We don’t have to deal with our difficulties alone. 

My journey started in high school (if not in middle school). I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts since then. It got harder in my later years of high school and it really ramped up in college while I was going through a tough relationship. 

I will always remember this one moment in college when I was alone in my apartment, crying and hyperventilating in the dark on my bed, calling all of my family members to see who would be able to pick up. My oldest sister answered the phone and she was talking me through my emotional freak-out. Pretty quickly in the call, she had told me really gently and slowly, “Pari, you’re having a panic attack. I get them, mom gets them, and grandpa gets them.” At that moment, in the background of my tears and rambling, my mind clicked. Oh, that’s what these are. 

I had experienced a few throughout high school and college already, without letting myself find out what they were. I had heard about panic attacks from a few friends that had them and from the media or from TV shows. But I never allowed myself to claim that I had panic attacks. Or suicidal thoughts, or really, depression. I always thought that somehow, my difficulties were not as hard as others. I could deal with them and I should suck it up because other people have it worse. “My brain is manageable and these tough spots are barely there,” I’d tell myself. And sometimes I’d think, “Maybe I’m just weird. Maybe I am just a bit different than my friends.” But I would constantly wonder if other people were like me…

My dad’s side has depression and my mom’s side has anxiety. Both pretty badly. Growing up, though, we didn’t talk about any of this. Not until things started bubbling up in the later years of life for all of us kids… college for me, and even older for my sisters. It makes sense why we didn’t talk about it, though. My parents grew up after the generation of “kids should be seen and not heard”. My grandparents’ generation didn’t have close relationships with their families. They bury things. They don’t talk about anything too intense. They don’t open up boxes. They just keep adding more tape when things try to push their way out.

Besides being raised in families that avoid conversation about barely tolerable emotions, I am sure it was hard for my parents to know if their kids deal with any of the tough things they quietly dealt with. They didn’t even let themselves accept they had mental health issues until a few years ago. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to raise your family, watching your kids, hoping they don’t show any signs of mental distress, and hoping you don’t have to see them go through what you go through. 

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Even if you were comfortable talking about mental health issues, when would you know to bring it up with your kid? You don’t want to approach it too early. You don’t want to approach it too late. Why talk about it when they aren’t ready to hear it? When is ‘ready to hear it’? 

The tricky thing is, a lot of these mental illnesses are quietly hurting the person who has them. People don’t talk about it. People think they are not allowed to. But then they don’t get the help they need. They think they are the only one experiencing what they are experiencing. They suffer alone. 

Enter 2018/2019. #selflove movement. We are talking about self-soothing. We are talking about coping skills. We are taking ourselves on more dates. Speaking up against physical abuse. #metoo. We are owning our power. Women (and men) are allowing themselves to be more vulnerable. People are getting ‘triggered’ and people are removing themselves from bad situations. We are shifting. Shifting away from traditional gender norms. We are moving into a full world of spectrums. In gender, sexual orientation, in mental health, and in so much more.