I have written this at least a thousand times in my head, but when I attempt to write it down words fail me. I think that it is because there are not any. There is no perfect combination of words that could quite encompass what it is like to live with a mental illness. By writing this blog series, I hope to be a relatable voice among a sea of testimonies regarding mental health. My name is Madalyn. I am a college student. I work at a hospital. I live with a mental illness. This blog will follow my own personal experiences and provide information on how to handle these situations if they happen to you.
I have been silent for longer than I would like to admit. I was ashamed of who I am, and the thing I considered to be wrong with me. I had to learn that having a mental illness does not mean something is wrong with me. On the contrary, I think it makes me more human. Isn't it funny how humans strive so relentlessly for perfection when we're so much better off being imperfect? Having a mental illness is by no means easy, but there is one thing I can always take comfort in: I am never alone. I know it is frowned upon to speak in definites, but this one I am quite certain of. I can be on any continent on planet Earth and find solace in knowing that someone, somewhere on this lumbering sheet of rock, also has a mental illness.
You may be familiar with the phrase knowledge is power; I think knowledge can also be so much more. By knowing that I am not alone, I have gained a sense of peacefulness with my illness. I no longer grapple with my identity like I did when I was in high school. Sharing my knowledge has also helped me build a community and support system around me. My best friend, who for privacy I will just call Jack, doesn’t have a mental illness the way I do. But, sharing what I have learned on my own and in therapy has allowed Jack and me to create a very strong bond. When I feel like my world is crumbling over the drop of a pencil, Jack reminds me that the feeling won’t last forever. When I suffer through a panic attack, Jack will sit with me until the feeling passes. Community is a central pillar of my identity. Without my community, I would not be sitting here writing this. I want this platform to help you start conversations and build your own support system. I hope you are able to read one of my experiences and show it to a friend or a family member to help them understand what your own words may fail to explain.
In the future, I plan to cover topics such as test anxiety, the stress of balancing work and school during a low period, conquering a panic attack, and many more. I will give a general overview of the situations, while also suggesting ways to cope in that particular situation. For example, the post covering panic attacks will recount what a general panic attack is like for me. I will present the ordeal I go through from start to finish (while being mindful of triggers, of course). I will also share some of the things that help me through one such as apps on my phone, breathing exercises, and mantras. These things are not meant to cure all, and may not work for you. They are only intended to be suggestions, but I hope they resonate with you.
Please note that this article is for educational purposes only. The following does not constitute official medical advice, and no treatment relationship has been established. You should consult your own doctors to best understand the needs of your unique situation. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please visit the nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255), which is a 24/7 toll-free number. For non-crisis situations and non-U.S. resources, check out the resources on our Find Support page.