Yes I Take Medicine for My Mental Illness, No that Does Not Make Me Weak

Mental health, just like physical health, is something that requires a great deal of maintenance.

Arguably, mental health may even require more frequent and involved maintenance than physical health. I say this because when it comes to physical health, exercise and healthy eating are often the most influential mechanisms by which we maintain a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to mental health, however, there is an infinite number of influential factors, both positive and negative, that may effect how we feel and our ability to function effectively. 

The majority of the world's population has no problem with successful and appropriate emotional functioning and responses -  for others of us, we are not so fortunate

While it is true that the majority of people do not suffer from any type of mental illness, the amount of individuals who do is likely much larger than we may realize. Nearly 1 in 5 American adults suffers from some sort of mental illness - that's 42.5 million people

I am one of those people. 

It has been almost two years since I was officially diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but I have had it all my life. GAD is a disorder that is characterized by incessant, generalized worry about the future. In other words, I worry myself sick (often literally), and no matter how hard I try to rationalize my fears and work past them, they never seem to truly go away. 

For most of my life, the symptoms were manageable. For most of my life, I was able to cope. It wasn't until my junior year of high school that I realized things were beginning to get out of hand. I was extremely irritable almost all of the time, I didn't want to be around the people who mattered most to me, and worst of all, I didn't even recognize myself anymore.

Every day I would wake up and wonder: Who was this person? This person who can't even stand to be in the same room as other people for more than a matter of minutes? This person who can't even hold a normal conversation without snapping at someone and unintentionally hurting their feelings? 

The intensity of my symptoms increased astronomically, as did my feelings of helplessness.

I can still remember the exact moment that I decided to seek medical help. It was a weekday night, and I was sitting in our family living room watching TV with my mom. Everything was normal, nothing was out of place, and all of the sudden it hit me. This wave on panic engulfed me. I started to sob. It felt like the world was crashing down around me and I have absolutely no idea why. I couldn't explain to you why I was upset, or what had triggered it. I had no idea what was happening. 

I went to see my family doctor the next day, and low and behold, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. 

My doctor reassured me that this is something that many people suffer from, and many of those same people who seek treatment are fully capable of living full, enriched, and normal lives. I was so happy that I started to cry again (I'm actually kind of a crybaby, but that's okay too). I was so relieved that someone understood what was happening to me, especially since I sure didn't. 

I was started on a regimen of daily antidepressants, these are often used to treat various kinds of mood disorders, and I was also given something a little bit stronger for those especially rough days. 

Since seeking medical help for my anxiety disorder, my entire life has changed. I feel like myself again. 

I no longer find myself curled up in bed with the weight of the world on my shoulders when prior to seeing my doctor this was happening on an almost daily basis. I no longer feel as if I'm going to crawl out of my skin any time I'm around other people. And most importantly, I no longer isolate myself from the people and things that I love. 

Seeking help for mental health problems is tough, I'm not going to lie. It's easy to feel as if your mental health disorder is your fault or as if something is wrong with you. I'm here to tell you that this is absolutely not true. Mental health disorders are influence by a number of different factors, but not a single one of those factors are voluntary. You don't choose mental health disorders, they choose you. 

For anyone who feels as if they are less because of their mental health disorder or feel as if taking medicine for mental health is weak, I can assure you that it quite the opposite is true. Many of my family members, friends, and classmates suffer from a variety of mental health disorders and they are some of the strongest, most independent people I know. If anything, you should be proud of your mental illness. Being able to handle such a large burden, with or without the help of others, is something not everyone, not even many, people could handle.

 

In short collegiettes; you are strong. You are inspiring. And you are not alone.