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Mental Health

How Depression Changed My Worldview for the Better

Stigma. A simple word made up of six letters that has affected my everyday life since the point of my diagnosis (mid-2016). Depression. A not-so-simple word made up of late nights on the phone, endless tears and a treacherous road to recovery. Through the years, I've learned that not everyone deals with the devil in the same capacity that I do. I've also learned that while they may not understand how my mental health can deteriorate, they understand the careful dance I do with society regarding my depression, OCD, anxiety and insomnia. 

The stigma surrounding mental health is a tough beast to tackle, and unfortunately, society has not yet overcome this boundary. I first heard about stigma through social media, when I was desperately searching for support groups to alleviate the pressure of feeling so alone. I wouldn’t see the stigma around mental health in action in person until about two years later, when my boyfriend refused to see a therapist because it was “too girly,” despite his obvious suffering and need for professional guidance. Stigma can manifest in many different ways, from being too embarrassed to ask for your medication at the pharmacy to being outright denied as a person when you reveal you are struggling with something internally. It's affected my dating life, social life and professional life, with me not wanting to reveal my mental health struggles to anyone.

In fact, according to Abnormal Psychology by Ronald J. Comer and Jonathan S. Comer, based on various studies done on the subject, 33% of people in America would not seek out counseling for fear of being labeled “mentally ill,” and 51% would be hesitant about seeing a therapist if a diagnosis were required. The stigma carries on through society, whether we attach it to a specific person or an ideal as a whole. These findings also directly oppose the view of most psychologists and counselors — the idea that most, if not all, people would benefit from therapy, regardless of their mental health state. 

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Depression has affected my life in a very major way, with one of the bigger issues being my self-image. I never felt like I could fit in or be liked for being my genuine self. I had many people tell me (while I was finding my identity) that I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t enough. And to this day, I carry other people’s words with me. The beautiful thing about growing up is recognizing and appreciating the growth in your own mind. As I grew up, I realized something: everyone carries their own baggage, regardless of if you can see it or not. With this in mind and lots of (ongoing) therapy appointments paired with two different medications, I've rationalized my thoughts and become someone I'm proud of being. This doesn’t mean that I no longer have terrible, terrible days, or that I don’t wrestle with my unhealthy thought processes or coping mechanisms. I do. I’m just no longer embarrassed to admit to myself that I need help. I also understand with great clarity that seeking help is okay. (Say it louder for the people in the back: SEEKING HELP IS OKAY).

It's also okay to wrestle with your mental health — the keyword here being wrestle. I think wrestling is a beautiful word in all that it encapsulates. The nature of wrestling is that sometimes you’ll be on top and sometimes your opponent will be on top, but the important thing is that you engage. Opposing your mental illness and continuing to find your way through it ultimately makes you a stronger person, which makes you a fighter and a survivor. I wrestle with my unhealthy thoughts daily, if not hourly. But the beautiful thing about going to therapy is that your counselor will give you the tools required to wrestle with these thoughts, and eventually come out on top.

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Becoming more confident in myself hasn't been an easy path to follow. With my brain wanting to doubt every step along the way and society telling me that my feelings are invalid, it’s difficult to believe in who I am and what I'm capable of. Luckily, I’ve found confidence through social media advocates for mental health awareness and destigmatizing the future. I now share my journey openly on different social media platforms. I'm an advocate myself for making people aware of the stigma surrounding mental health, and providing information and options to tear down that wall. While our society has made some meaningful progress in the realm of mental health advocacy and destigmatization, there will always be a battle to fight for the acceptance of mental illness and mental health practices. The important thing is that we never give up on this battle and continue to push for what is right.

Morgan is currently a junior at UCF, majoring in clinical psychology and minoring in creative writing! She was born and raised in Clearwater, FL, but currently resides in the lovely city of Orlando. Her hobbies include reading classics (she highly recommends Wuthering Heights to anyone looking to read the most twisted and doomed love story of all time), writing notes app poetry, and doing yoga. After completing her undergraduate degree, Morgan is going to pursue a PhD and ultimately practice as a clinical psychologist/therapist, doing research in the field while also providing treatment to patients.
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