If you’re reading this, I hope you see it too.
Do you want to hear something I hate? I hate that we put so much pressure on ourselves to be happy.
And it’s not without good reason, trust me, I know that. Being happy is what life's all about. Well, maybe you disagree. But you do have to agree that it’s what most people try to attain, and being happy is inarguably much better than being unhappy.
We all want to be happy. That’s completely normal.
No, instead I’m talking about the constant pressure to appear happy all the time. We see it in our social media posts and in the endless highlight reel of vacations, smiles, and “candids.” We even see it in the way that we complement each other. “Ugh he’s just always so happy.” As if never being sad is a realistic, and even admirable trait.
It’s okay to get sad. In fact, it’s normal. Can you imagine a world where we walked around with smiles plastered on our faces 24/7? Sounds like an episode of Black Mirror to me.
So, what I’m really trying to get at here is this: Being sad sometimes doesn’t make you a lesser person. Heck, even feeling helplessly depressed doesn’t make you a lesser person. This is a situation that you do not have control over. This is not your fault. This does not affect who you are. You are still you.
You can have depression and still be a positive person.
You can have anxiety and still be lighthearted.
You can have any kind of mental illness and still be funny, successful, sarcastic, driven, adventurous, energetic, intuitive, sensitive, strong, sweet, and the list goes on.
Mental illness has as much to do with morality and personality as cancer does.
You would never tell somebody with asthma it’s just in their head. You would never tell somebody with diabetes to just get over it. So why do we act like illness of the brain is any different than illness of any other organ.
When you’re sick, you make some lifestyle changes, you take your medication, and you rely on your friends and family for support. When you’re sick, your body’s chemistry is just a little off. That’s what mental illness is: a little tweak in body chemistry.
So let’s realize that not being happy all the time is normal. In fact, the people that learn to smile in the rain are the most beautiful of all.
If you’re in the rain, and can’t smile yet, that’s okay. Wait it out. The rain stops. Be here for all the people that are waiting on that smile. We’re here. We know it’s coming. We love you. We know it’s hard. Some of us have been there. Some of us haven’t, but we want to empathize anyway. We’re all in your corner. We’ll be there to patch you up when you duke it out with whatever’s got you down. Heck, let us throw some punches. Lean on us. You don’t have to go it alone. We don’t want you to go it alone.
Whoever you are, you’re great no matter what you’re dealing with. You aren’t your mental illness. You’re stronger for shouldering this. Let me shoulder it with you.
I want to be there for you.
I hate that I even have to tell you that I won’t judge you. Frankly, we should live in a world where saying you have a mental illness is as stigma-free as saying you have allergies. We’ll get there someday. Today, you’ve got me. And a lot of other people.
I know with mental illness, you can know exactly what’s going on and not feel better. You can know which neurotransmitter is screwing up or which part of your brain is just a little off that day, and it still won’t change how you feel. Rationality doesn’t always connect to your body’s response. (If it did, then we could cure cancer by telling people just how their cells are multiplying.) So I don’t expect that reading this will cure anything. But I hope it helps. I hope it makes just a tiny crack in the glass.
I’ve been taking anti-depressants for a few years now. They’re necessary, just like medication is necessary for anybody else who’s sick, but you know what always makes me feel better? Talking to somebody. Being vulnerable with somebody is scary, but seeing how much you’re cared about can make all the difference.
So here I am, telling you that you can talk to me. You can cry to me. Heck, I’ll even cry with you. Do you want to scream into a pillow? Good, I’ve got 5.
I want you to know that you can tell me everything, and I’ll still see you as the same, wonderful person I have known thus far.
There is no one alive that is youer than you.
Yea, I just quoted Dr. Seuss.
But there is only one you. We can’t replace you.
We see something wonderful in you; I hope you see it too.
Anonymous, Class of 2018, University of Virginia