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**Trigger Warning: Depression, Anxiety, Suicide**
One individual every 16.2 minutes in the United States.
It’s easy to spark a conversation about suicide when it’s committed by a celebrity. But why aren’t we talking about it when it happens the rest of the 30,000 Americans each year?
Though Mental Health Awareness Month (May) has ended, that doesn’t mean the conversation should, too.
Suicide is a side effect of depression, a condition that 16.1 million americans struggle with. And 43.8 million americans struggle with their mental health. Since it affects 1 in 5 adults, the conversation on Mental Health must continue, and it is a topic that deserves transparency, patience, and understanding.
I’m no expert, but I’ve had my fair share of struggles with mental health.
I was 15 when I first understood that the fear and worry I experienced every day wasn’t normal. I consistently walked on eggshells, afraid that every move I made wasn’t right, wasn’t good enough. There was this overwhelming fear that I was forgetting something really important, and that something bad was going to happen to me if I didn’t figure out what it was.
These feelings, fueled by events in my home life, landed me in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for 3 years. My therapists office was a place of anger, pain, and confusion, but eventually, understanding. I left each session emotionally drained, but looking back now, they stimulated so much growth within me. (Though I understand just how difficult it might be to get help and talk to someone, it’s worked wonders for me, and I will always recommend it.)
I stopped going to therapy when I went away to my freshman year of college, though that was the time when perhaps I needed it the most. I fell into my deepest depression that year, and hit my rock bottom (a story for another time).
But I learned a lot that year, and this past year as well.
Now, I feel like a whole new version of myself.
I used to battle daily anxiety attacks, and now I’ve gone a year without one. I no longer feel that every step I take is incorrect. My shoulders stand tall without weight and baggage bringing me down. My skin greets the sun, as that dark cloud that followed me has lifted.
Mental illness does not disappear, and is something I know I will have to manage for the rest of my life, but I’ve come to realize some things that have really helped me get a handle on it.
I control my mental health, it does not control me.
So, in an effort to do my part, I want to share with you the 5 things I’ve learned in hopes that they may help you too.
1. We Attract What We’re Ready For
Told first to me by a high school best-friend’s mother (shoutout Gia!) , this phrase became my motto. The world, the universe, any God you may believe in, is not going to throw something at you that you can’t handle. You’ve come into this situation because you need to be challenged, but you already have all of the tools and strength you need.
2. Everything Happens as it’s Meant to
You lost your job? You were supposed to. Girlfriend broke up with you? Her time in your life has ended because she had nothing left to teach you, and you had nothing left to teach her. After every event in our lives, we have the option to let it ruin us, or fuel us. Understand that each situation is leading you to your next destination. Again, if you want to bring religion into it, you’ve got a path. Every decision you make, everything you do, is because you were supposed to. Everything is a lesson.
3. Everything is Temporary
This was a hard one for me to grasp. I first thought about this when I was researching buddhism (a truly fascinating spirituality). To my understanding, buddhists believe that in the Four Noble Truths. The first truth is that in life, there is much suffering. The second truth is that our suffering is due to our attachment. Attachment to material things, to people, to situations. As one of the Three Marks of Existence in buddhism, Annica, or impermanence, is a lesson in itself. It’s a vast concept and can seem morbid, as it’s teaching that everything changes. Nothing in our life is guaranteed, constant, or unchanging. Feelings and thoughts evolve, situations develop, relationships transform.
4. Gratitude is Your New Best Friend
Building off of this previous idea of impermanence, we must be grateful for what is. When we understand that things will change, we have the opportunity to more intensely enjoy what is present. Feel each moment in its entirety, whether they be moments of joy and love, or anger and hurt. Be grateful for the moment and the lesson it is teaching you or the joy it’s bringing you, as it is bound to change eventually.
5. Celebrate Your Little Victories
The first piece of advice I give my friends when they’re struggling, is to make your bed. Because even if that is the only thing you can accomplish that day, it’s still something to be proud of. It’s something you made happen. Give yourself a pat on the back.
When we accomplish something, even something as small as that, it builds this sense of pride, and gives us momentum to work with so we can accomplish more things – resulting in more pats on the back. Participation trophies get a real bad rap, but there really are days that simply showing up is enough.
Celebrate those little things. Celebrate going to a full day of classes and not skipping. Feel proud of getting through a full work week, or even just that big meeting. Celebrate yourself and all of your efforts, no matter how small they may seem.
I’m sincerely hoping that these lessons help you in your mental health journey. Understand that no matter how low or lonely you feel, there are people who love you, care for you, and are here to help you.
Check in on your friends. Check in with yourself.