Dec 13, 2016
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
It is the anniversary of my diagnosis, but only five people know about my depression and anxiety. My partner, my parents, my sister, and one friend. In no way have I faced mental illness alone, but I know that more people in my community and in my family would support me if I told them. Why haven’t I? Like everything to do with mental illness, the reasons are complicated and individual. But, they illustrate how important it is for my recovery to disclose my illness and experiences in my own time.
I have several mental health professionals in my family who love me and who would jump to offer their advice and assistance to me. I recognize that I am incredibly privileged in this regard, as so many people struggle to access mental health services and support. However, the idea of asking them for help a year ago only created additional anxiety for me.
I wish that I didn’t feel stigma. I wish that we could all live without it. Yet it’s there, sometimes in a word choice and sometimes in a misconception about how I should get better. Stigma is the easiest of these reasons to explain: I didn’t want my family and friends to see me differently because of my illness.
Thanks to my university’s student health services centre, I knew that if I went to my doctor at the centre, I could start the process of recovery. I wanted to trust that if I used the tools that my doctor and psychologist suggested, I would recover. I needed to focus on doing one thing at a time: one appointment, one session, one group meeting. I didn’t want a hundred different suggestions from a hundred different people because I already had a path to recovery.
The hardest and most empowering thing that I have ever done is tell my doctor that I have symptoms of depression and anxiety. I was terrified and embarrassed and I cried my way through the next several appointments. Yet, seeking help on my own terms has been one of the best decisions that I have made. When my depression and anxiety were at their worst, I lost all motivation and self-worth. One time, my partner asked me to tell him five positive words that describe me, and I couldn’t find one or believe him when he suggested some to me. Seeking help on my own terms was the first step of pulling myself out of that hole. Doing it myself gave me proof that I could keep going, and momentum to take the next step.
A year, therapy, and medication later, I see the good and bad in the anxiety that I had. Telling others immediately might have taken me on a different path, and I don’t know if it would have been better or worse. Most of all, though, a year has given me the knowledge that I need to feel equipped to disclose my illness. I know the treatments and strategies that continue to work for me, and I am ready to confront any questions or suggestions that others may have for me about my illness.
I feel confident that my recovery is progressing. I am now comfortable enough to disclose my depression and anxiety, and to let them support me.