By Brianna Krueger
Talking about your mental health is taboo because of the stigma surrounding it. Let people know what’s ‘wrong’ with you and you’re the plague (Yay, another ‘wrong’ thing with me!) But the stigma and taboo has got to go, because judging someone for mental health? Not cool. You wouldn’t kick over a person with one leg (visible), so why kick over someone with anxiety, or an eating disorder, or depression, or bi-polar, or addiction, etc. (not visible)?
So many are quick to say, “But it’s just in your head,” which makes me want to shout, “Yeah, no shit Sherlock, it is in my head.” If I could take my head off my body just to get away from my anxiety and thoughts sometimes, believe me, I would. I will be “The Loser” with no head because sometimes it’s like my anxiety has anxiety.
Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And since I can’t remove my head, alas, my mental health is stuck with me. And it’s about to be stuck with you, because I’m open about my mental health, and here’s why.
My Mental Health Does Not Define Me
I suffer from anxiety, and for the longest time I let it define me and how I lived. It was an excuse for why I couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t, can’t, won’t, don’t, etc.. In some ways, it was my safety blanket I clutched to get me out of things because I could so easily play it like a trump card. I allowed anxiety to hold me back, blaming it and abetting it.
Much as I detested my anxiety, it was my identity.
But one day, I lost something incredibly important to me because of my anxiety. I pleaded with the lost and myself that if I could get help, things would be okay.
With some help from a doctor, I learned how to better manage my anxiety, and a change awakened in me. I could try all* those things that scared me that I let anxiety hold me back from, like learning to snowboard or driving the jet ski. I could stand up for myself in meetings, instead of being too nervous to speak. I should, can, and will be able to do anything, because anxiety doesn’t get to tell me how I live. It doesn’t get a free pass to occupy my head anywhere; now we’re co-existing, and I’m winning.
Cliché as it sounds, I saw the light of getting help for my mental health, and it was beautiful. When people look at me, I don’t feel like they’re talking to anxiety; they’re talking to Brianna.
*But never public speaking. There’s not enough management or medication in the world to make me want to public speak.
I thrive on overcoming my mental health
As mentioned, anxiety was why I couldn’t do things, or so I blamed it. It was easy, too, and quite honestly, I didn’t mind it. Sure, I wasn’t living life to the fullest, but I was content to let anxiety rule me… Till I realized how accomplished I felt when I did something where anxiety stood in the way.
Proving I can overcome the voices in my head telling me all the crazy thoughts (you can’t do that; you’ll look stupid doing that; you’re an idiot; remember that one time ten years ago when you embarrassed yourself doing…, etc.) is a rewarding feeling. It’s mind over matter, which is a complete struggle when you suffer from anxiety because your mind needs to overcome itself.
Whether my anxiety is trying to stop me from trying to rock wall climb, or scared to join in a social situation where I know nobody, or take a chance and walk up to a guy and ask him out, the feeling I get by working through and over my anxiety is a huge sense of accomplishment. Even if it’s something most people do easily every day, I’m proud when I can do it, and thrive on that feeling of success.
Someone has to get the conversation started
Because there is such a stigma around talking about your mental health, people don’t. It’s about on par with the thinking of ‘girls don’t fart and they poop glitter that smells of roses.’ (Fact: girls poop.) And there’s no shame in either – or there shouldn’t be.
With approximately 1 in 41 people being affected by a mental health condition (about 40 million Americans), it should be the norm. Ideally, I want to be able to not always address mental health conditions, but with so many affected, it should be something we talk about! It could even save someone’s life.
Maybe you’re not ready to talk about it openly but talk about it to somebody – a friend or a doctor. Just get talking in a way you’re comfortable because it could save someone’s life; quite possibly, your own.
I don’t care if I’m judged for my mental health
At the end of the day, I’m happy with who I am and how I live my life, anxiety or no anxiety aside. Judge me all you want, tell me it’s all in my head all you want, but I don’t care. My anxiety causes me to overthink situations, conversations, actions, and thoughts to the moon and back, but someone not liking me because of my mental health is not something I will ever lose sleep over.
My mental health is a part of me. We’re a package deal, and if you don’t like it, I probably definitely don’t need you in my life anyway – and that’s okay. Because I’m okay. (And you will be, too)
Brianna Krueger is a writer trying to make it big while not taking herself too seriously (unless you’re her boss – then she takes herself very seriously). Traveling and reading are her passions, especially since books are cheaper than airfare for all the cool places stories take her. She is always on the lookout for a good cup of coffee, a pup to snuggle, and notepad to write, especially all at once.