In August artist and Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington took his own life. He like many other immensely talented individuals, was not immune to their own minds and tragically Chester lost his battle, my condolences to him and all those who love him.
Mental health issues have been in the headlines for healthcare, judicial and medical reform for years; it is the animal that everyone can see but everyone is scared to address for fear of waking an untamable beast. Anyone who has gone through a point in their lives when they struggled with depression, anxiety, panic disorders, multiple personalities or any other mental health issue, knows that it is not just about winning a battle, it is a war you fight, in silence, in your own head, every day. Some are lucky, they are able to overcome the obstacle in their minds, they are able to seek help and find a way to manifest and overturn those heavy stones that make it almost impossible to move day in and day out. Others though, they aren’t so lucky and the disease wins, those who take their own lives don’t want to die, they just want to the pain to stop.
In high school, I had a classmate take his own life, he was such a great kid, he was always smiling and laughing and he always wanted to be friendly with everyone. Nobody could believe it when the school told us that he’d passed away. It was then that I realized that you could be trapped in your own mind, with what feels like no way out. I have anxiety, I imagine I’ve probably always had it. In high school, I saw a psychologist once a week, my parents sent me and at the time I just thought they were punishing me but looking back maybe they saw something I couldn’t maybe they knew they could help me by sending me there, I don’t know. At the time, I wasn’t making the best life choices, I was spiraling out of control and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on what I was feeling, I just reacted.
That doctor was the first person who ever suggested that maybe what I was feeling was anxiety, she asked me if I ever felt this way or that way, and a few of them resonated with me but I wasn’t sold on the idea. What could she know about me anyway? My parents hired her, she didn’t know me or what I was about, so I dismissed her and eventually stopped going.
Fast forward years later, I was now a young mother. I was now responsible for a whole other life, not just mine and every single thing I did not only affected me but her too. That was a whole lot of pressure, that I tried to carry in stride, but eventually the thoughts got to me and followed me around. What if I never finished school? What if I was stuck in my parents’ house, what if, what if, what if. The racing thoughts made my stomach drop, I felt like I’d eaten rocks and it drove me to act irrationally. I got academically dismissed because I couldn’t sit still or focus in classes and I missed my finals. It took me years to get my mind in a place where I could get through school, and even now there are days when I don’t want to walk into the classroom.
Today, I still have anxiety and some days it’s quite and other days it’s a roaring noise that deafens me. The weirdest things might trigger my anxiety and I’m not proud to say I’ve just gotten better at hiding it rather than dealing with it. What people don’t understand though, is that sometimes I seem really mean or disconnected with them or a situation and I seem angry, but I’m not and it’s just my anxiety manifesting itself that way. Sometimes a situation makes me anxious, sometimes there are too many people in a room or too many conversations happening at once and it overwhelms me. Some days I have a ridiculous fear that anxiety is just making worse and approaching me just triggers a nasty reaction that I don’t mean to give you. Anxiety is heavy, it’s random and sometimes it hangs around for a few days and makes me want to just lay in bed and avoid people and places. None of it means that I’m mad at anyone, that I’m antisocial or that I’m blowing you off it just means that today my mind got the best of me and I thought myself into a corner that I need space and time to get out of.
Mental health issues are not a joke, and you never know what the people around you are dealing with, so be kind, always. And let the people you love know that you love them because some days the battle they’re fighting might be too large for them to fight alone, they need you. Mental health issues are not a weakness, they are a disease and they are debilitating, so the next time someone asks you for help, listen.
If you, or someone you know is struggling here are some resources that can help. Never ignore the signs.