Kendall Kindred Kendall is the Editor and Staff Writer for TFP.
I spent years blaming myself for things that were caused by illnesses I did not yet understand. I was convinced that I was going insane. I started failing classes, something I had never even imagined doing. I distanced myself from my friends. I blamed my family and my environment for the constant storm in my head. I spent years refusing to get help because I didn’t understand how badly I needed it. Although I didn’t know it when I was young, I have always dealt with severe anxiety. The feeling of my heart pounding in my chest is more familiar to me than the back of my hand. As a child, I would have panic attacks if my dad was late coming home from work or if my mom didn’t immediately answer when I called. I became a professional at convincing myself that the worst had happened. I sent myself into a panic, crying and fighting for air on more occasions than I care to admit. I got older and depression found a home in me. Paired with my anxiety, it was nearly lethal. I lost interest in things I cared about, and stopped putting effort into my schoolwork. I could not force myself to do it, but in my mind, I obsessed over the potential consequences of not doing it. It was a constant back-and-forth in my head, worrying about all the things I should’ve been doing but never finding enough motivation to do them. My grades slipped and I stopped writing music. I couldn’t explain what was causing the sudden shift because I didn’t have a single clue what was wrong. All I knew was that there was a heavy weight in my chest that made it impossible to function normally. I took a lot of my own confusion out on my parents and my siblings, who just happened to have the misfortune of living with me in a time when I could hardly handle living with myself. They had no idea what I was dealing with, and I didn’t care to enlighten them. How was I supposed to look at my little siblings, the kids that I am supposed to be a role model for, and tell them that I felt broken and small? How do you look at your family and the life they gave you and tell them that you don’t feel like you deserve it anymore? It is overwhelming and terrifying. It was impossible. Throughout all of this, I felt completely alone. I had no idea how common mental illnesses really were. It wasn’t until I started reading other people’s stories that I really started to understand what was happening. People that I looked up to opened up about their own battles with anxiety. I heard them speak candidly about their mental health and started taking control of my own. Truly, I owe my life to them. Years later, I still have days (weeks) when I feel that way. If I’m being honest, I barely even had the energy to write this piece today. Most days, I have a hard time getting myself out of bed in the morning. I am fighting to keep my head above water, but I’m so much better than I was before. I still have a long way to go, and I know that, but I’m trying. My point in writing all of this is to remind people who may be struggling with the same things that they are not alone. We live in a world that often casts mental illnesses aside, ignoring them for “real” issues. Mental illness is a real issue. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and it should be treated as such. Ask for help. Talk about it. Take care of yourself. Trust me, you’ll be thankful for it in the long run.