As a twelve year old I did not understand what mental health was but I knew I was feeling more than just sad. It was not until I was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder shortly after I turned eighteen that I began to learn more about mental health.
I had just graduated from high school, and when my friends found out about my mental health struggles, they did not know how to react. Truth be told I didn’t know how to react, either. I felt so alone and so afraid of everything that was happening.
I felt like I was in a forest. I could not see past the thicket of trees where the clearing lied beyond the trees. But what kept me going was a little spark called hope and I knew that it was there because I didn’t want to give up.
What got me through during these moments which I still practice them presently, I cope by practicing self-care and one major way is to be kind to myself. There really is no right way to be kind to myself. Being kind sometimes looks like taking a nap; sometimes it looks like writing a song or poem, or journal entry; sometimes, it means being able to be vulnerable and talk about what I’m going through with the people I trust.
After my diagnosis I’ve been through many ups and downs. It’s like a rollercoaster, the kind where you want to get off but you’re stuck longer than you expected. Now that I‘m graduating from university very soon, I’m very thankful to my friends and family for always supporting me even at times when we did not know what we were doing. It’s not about knowing what to say sometimes, the fact that they were physically and emotionally available for me meant a lot to me already.
It took time for me to learn about mental health and I’m still learning how to practice self-care, love and accept myself and those around me. I know this is a journey and my story and what I go through does not define who I am. I may be broken and flawed, but I am also a whole person, packed with abilities and capability that I may not have even fully discovered and explored yet. I actively choose to love, even if it gets tough. It’s important to me that those around me know about mental health too, so that they could be more aware and also encourage others or themselves to get the help that they need.
At the end of the day, every story matters, no matter when and where it starts, no matter who it is. Whether we feel like we don’t connect or relate as yet, mental health is an important part of every person’s health and should always matter.