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From March 13th every day for two weeks, we will be posting a new piece of content about people’s first experience of having a conversation about their mental health as part of our campaign #14Conversations.

We are raising money for a local, free mental health service for local people aged 11-25: Off The Record. They’re doing an amazing job but they can’t do it without financial support. Click here to donate!

#Conversation6 comes from Jessica J.

Last weekend my sister asked me about a dream she had. I asked her which one, and what was it about? She said to me, “The one where you were crying in the car and telling parents that you were depressed.” She then admitted that she wasn’t sure if it was a dream at all or if it was a memory. I laughed and told her it was real.

I remember the feeling of frustration every time I had to wake up, or do something, or go somewhere.

Even though I can look back and laugh (and cringe) at it now, it felt much scarier at the time. I had been in a depressive funk when I was around fourteen maybe, and at that time I couldn’t really understand why. I remember the feeling of frustration every time I had to wake up, or do something, or go somewhere. So one morning when our family was getting ready to go to church, I protested and told them that I didn’t feel like going. Obviously, this wasn’t a good enough reason and since we went every week, I had to go.

 

During the car trip there it was mostly silent, thanks to me ruining the general mood. I decided to voice my concerns once more, telling them that I wanted to go back home and that I wasn’t feeling well—because physical illness is more than often a better, more acceptable excuse, but they told me that I just had to stick it out for the next two hours. I broke down in tears and my parents, understandably confused, asked me what was wrong—a mixture of panic, frustration and puzzlement. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know what was wrong, so I just told them I was depressed.

For thirteen year-old me, who had no access to a psychologist or even the smallest clue about mental illnesses in general, this was the closest word I had to expressing myself: depressed.

Note that this was during a time when I had just been learning about mental health and common problems people tend to face. I saw a page describing depression on a medical website once and I found myself identifying with some of the symptoms. This was by no means a formal diagnosis, but I think the idea of ‘formal’ diagnoses can be a difficult thing in itself. For thirteen year-old me, who had no access to a psychologist or even the smallest clue about mental illnesses in general, this was the closest word I had to expressing myself: depressed.

After church we all managed to cool down and my parents comforted me, telling me that I shouldn’t be depressed and that I should be happy instead. They were well-intentioned sentiments, which I appreciated, but served no real help to me at that time. The topic was brushed off in the following days, everyone pretending that I hadn’t just had the strangest emotional outburst that came out of nowhere.

The brief feeling of release that came with telling my parents about my mental state quickly disappeared once more, tucked inside of silences and the pressure to return to ‘normality’ – something that I did for several years. It wasn’t until university did I finally become more comfortable expressing myself emotionally, and my life is a lot better now because of it.

Of course, some of you might ask, what changed? How did I get from A to B when the time in between seemed to be spent suppressing a lot of my thoughts? The answer was research and practice. Clinical, yes, but also very effective. As an English major, I’ve learned to value words not just because of the way they construct metaphors and build worlds in your mind. I’ve learned to value words as a medium for expressing one’s identity, and I realized that there is nothing more liberating than the feeling of not just expressing yourself, but expressing yourself accurately. It’s the best type of justice you can give to yourself.

I am always thinking of and practicing better ways of expressing myself, and even though I may stumble, I can say that it is always better to let the words flow out than to keep them inside.

I struggle with anxiety in my day-to-day life, and this is something that I’ve had ever since I was a teenager. Social anxiety is a part of it, but most of it is anxiety about myself—my identity, the way I present myself, my place in society, my feelings, even my way of thinking.

Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s true that people with anxiety get anxiety about feeling anxious. I know it seems that I’ve repeated the word a lot in this paragraph, but it’s a liberating feeling just to be able to use the word itself. That was what I struggled with in the car that day, but it was an important moment in my journey to self-improvement.

Every since I was able to comfortably identify with my mental illness my family dynamics have improved greatly. They read the articles I publish, watch the videos I make and share my stories with their friends and for that I am grateful. A lot of them come back to tell me that they’ve gone through the same thing, too. Language plays a critical role in this process, because without the right vocabulary to express ourselves how are we to tell others? How are we to understand others without being familiarized with these words?

I am always thinking of and practicing better ways of expressing myself, and even though I may stumble, I can say that it is always better to let the words flow out than to keep them inside.


Thank you Jessica for sharing your story. Get involved in the conversation by using #14Conversations on Twitter!

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