For the longest time, I had hoped that my depression and anxiety would go away with time. There were always obstacles – school, work, friend drama. Something always seemed to come up to make me anxious and when I wasn’t anxious, I was usually depressed. At the very least, I thought that once I finished school, my anxiety would dissipate. But it turns out that after graduation, I found new things to obsess and be anxious over.
It took me until I was about 17 years old to realize that something was probably wrong with me. And it took me even longer to put words and labels to the way I was feeling. My childhood wasn’t terrible but it definitely wasn’t conducive to someone struggling with depression and anxiety and the societal stigma that exists around mental illness made it hard for me to find outside help. My teenage angst was heightened by both puberty and the ways depression manifests in teenagers and frequently put me at odds with my parents.
There weren’t many people in my life talking about mental illness and health in a positive and comprehensive way. I had one friend who struggled with being bipolar in high school but our experiences were so drastically different that it never occurred to me that there were so many different ways to experience mental illness. I’m so thankful for people who have publicly spoken about their own experiences with mental health because it was really through hearing all sorts of stories that I realized just how much my life was impacted by depression and anxiety.
My experiences are far from the worst – privilege of various forms has protected me from a whole lot that many people with various mental illnesses face, like the often fatal interactions that mentally ill folks have with police. But there are many days where I still struggle, where even getting out of bed is often incredibly difficult. I often have memory problems and it frequently takes me a lot longer to leave the house because I keep getting anxious that I forgot to turn the stove off or lock the door.
And there are many days where I think a lot about the future lately, especially in the context of eventually going back and getting help. With all the politics around health care and the House passing the AHCA, I know that I’m just one of millions who has a pre-existing condition and I worry about both having health insurance in the future and being able to afford care. I’m nervous about the future because I know that without health insurance, I’ll never be able to afford getting help and continuing to get better.
These things are never going to go away and I’m always going to have to live with them. I’ve come a long way in dealing with my mental illness and I’m doing so much better as far as taking care of myself. I’m able to not only name but fully acknowledge the ways in which my mental illness and health is impacting my life – I can put into words how I’m feeling and can better process what’s going on around me.
But the idea of being like this for the rest of my life is just so exhausting and honestly, rather emotional. Despite everything though, I do have a little bit of hope that one day, everything will be okay. It’s just going to be a long journey to get there.