Photo credit: Bradley Parker

Dakota

 

“Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.”  -Charles H. Spurgeon

   I’ve always done well for myself. I was the guy who got great grades, played sports, and knew everyone I met in the halls. I’ve always had one really big problem though; everyone enjoys my successes more than I do.  This has been an issue for as long as I can remember, but I never worried about it because I’m a student and I’m supposed to be stressed and anxious, right? It’s been a year since I realized maybe my mental health hasn’t been perfect, and being in a state of constant anxiety isn’t normal or manageable. I’m still working at it, and probably always will be, but I’ve accepted it as a part of who I am.

 

   After the passing of a close friend, I fell apart. I didn’t know how to cope, and everything was gray and numb. Suddenly, I felt depressed and reserved, and this shot my anxiety through the roof. I was constantly anxious about being anxious, among everything else, and now I didn’t have the energy or attitude to smile and grind through it as I had always done. I had never learned to deal with my issues, I had just smiled and continued working because I thought if I was still doing well in everything my problems must not really be too bad.  This means that when I fell into a tailspin and had to find another way to deal with it, the next best thing I knew was to use substances and reach for any sort of feeling.  This blew up pretty quickly and instead of being anxious and depressed, I was scared about my life. Eventually, I had no choice but to turn to someone, because I was scared to be alone with myself.

   I’m lucky to have had an amazing support system of family and friends and when they noticed I was in trouble, they did everything they could to catch me. The hardest part for me during my recovery was being able to tell anyone about what was going on. With the stigma I saw around mental health, along with my anxiousness, I felt I couldn’t address it. Amazingly, I received nothing but support when I began to seek help and it felt as if a weight was lifted.
 

   I’m still learning to enjoy today rather than letting the worries of tomorrow drag me down, but I’m proud to say that I’m working on it. I’m recovering. My hope is that we can all think about our mental health and not be afraid to have that discussion. Nobody should have to fall as I did and feel so much fear before seeking help. We constantly talk about our physical health, and it’s time to broaden the conversation.  My mental health is a part of me, but it no longer defines me.

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