The journey you take to improve anxiety and depression can be a crazy one. There are a lot of things to understand about mental health, but I wanted to share 7 of them with you.
These 7 things are just snippets of what I’ve learned over the past 3 years since I started my mental health journey.
I’ve had anxiety my entire life, but I don’t consider the start of my mental health journey to be until I was about 18. To me, there’s a big difference between just having an illness to actually starting to work through it.
I lived with anxiety for years, but I didn’t start putting in effort to managing it until I started college. THAT was when my journey really began!
And like I said, I learned a bunch of things in the past 3 years, but I narrowed it down to 7 for this post. Keep reading to get invaluable insight into things to understand about mental health.
(You’ll be learning them without all the work that I had to put in – so win-win right there!)
Tears/Crying is 100% okay, and they don’t make you weak
We all know that there’s this stigma in the world that crying a lot makes you some sort of weakling, or “too” sensitive or “too” emotional. But that’s just not true!
I’ve always been a very emotional person. I have always cried at basically everything (good AND bad lol) and that has its hardships. The stigma around crying just made me feel weird sometimes about how others would view me.
I mean…now, I don’t care what anyone thinks of me so that isn’t such a problem, haha! But I have experienced the weight that that stigma puts on you.
When I got depressed, though…the way I viewed my tears changed. For a while, I was very ashamed of my depression. That was a huge struggle for me.
Related: My Depression Story (+ how you can find the strength to ask for help!)
With depression, I think I got even more emotional (if you can imagine it!) and therefore, I was ashamed of my own tears. Every time I cried, I wanted to yell at myself and stop it but all of my emotions were so overwhelming.
It was a vicious cycle.
Eventually, though, I learned how to manage my depression and overcome it. With that, I stopped being ashamed of my negative emotions. I finally realized that crying was a GREAT thing to do.
Crying gave me a place to let go of my emotions, get them off my chest and feel better. I cry, like…at least once a day now and it really helps me!
I’m not saying that you have to become an extremely sensitive person like I am, but I AM saying that, if you ever feel the need to cry, do it! It can be very therapeutic and beneficial for you! And no matter what the world says, it does NOT make you a weak person.
Friends can become your family way more than you might expect
So first thing’s first – I totally understand that not everyone will agree with me on this, and that’s absolutely fine!
But I’ve always been someone who believes that you *choose* your family. You can choose the blood relatives you already have, or you can choose other people that aren’t related to you to be your family. You can even choose to not have someone in your life that is technically a family member.
This was a belief that I started to dive even deeper into with my mental health journey. Once I started to open up about my mental illnesses, I noticed that the people I preferred to speak with were my friends.
I place a HUGE amount of value in my friendships, and I’ve always been that way. But when I started talking to them about anxiety and depression, I could feel those relationships get even stronger.
They became my foundation of trust and hope when I was struggling with mental illness. I don’t know where I would be today without them, and I love them for it.
They have become my family, and I didn’t learn that until I fought my way through the darkness of my anxiety and depression.
Your childhood trauma can’t be ignored
Honestly, I don’t talk about everything I went through in my childhood here on my website or on my podcast. There a lot of reasons for that!
Some things that I went through are simply just very dark, and others are things that I’m still working through today. I plan on eventually speaking about it all, but I just don’t right now!
And that’s okay, because the Internet is a wild place and it really doesn’t need to know every single thing about me, lol.
The point, though, is that for a very long time, I really tried to ignore my childhood traumas. I pretended like they weren’t manifesting themselves into more problems as an adult. Negative thoughts about them kept coming to the forefront of my mind, and I always fought them back.
But it couldn’t stay like that forever. (By the way, this goes for trauma you get as an adult, too!)
Things that you went through in your past and the stuff you’re going through NEEDS to be taken care of. It can’t be ignored. It will keep showing up in your life, and it will not go away until you fix it. (If you’re afraid to…check this out.)
Once you stop ignoring your childhood traumas and start managing them, you’ll be free of that mental weight, and it won’t feel like it has such a strong grip around your neck.
By the way – a great place to start working through trauma and negative emotion in your life is to journal. I LOVE journaling! I actually use a planner as a journal (one of these!) and I highly recommend you try it out!
Related: How to Journal Effectively
Unexpected problems could arise with more issues than you think, but you’re also strong enough to get through them
This lesson of mine comes from an event that happened to me back in August of 2017. (It’s crazy to think that, at the time of writing this, it’s been almost 2 years already.)
I won’t go into details about what happened (that would be a whole post in and of itself), but I can say that I was harassed/sorta-kinda attacked. I can’t put a whole title on it.
No matter what it’s “called,” I can say that it was traumatizing. I was in shock when it happened and then for first couple of days afterward, I was really struggling to pull myself together.
Then, I struggled with the lasting effects of the event for months.
It was one thing to try and move on from what happened in the first place, and whole other one to try and manage all the things that I felt and dealt with in the months afterward.
The attack in 2017 was obviously very unexpected and hard. Dealing with everything after that was also super hard, and I wasn’t at all anticipating those things.
Eventually, I was able to move on from it all and it no longer affects me. It took a lot of hard work on my behalf to get to that point, but it’s gone! I’m very very grateful that I no longer struggle with all of those things.
The whole point of that story was to tell you that, sometimes life is going to throw you curve balls simply because that is what it likes to do. You’ll have to deal with things as they come up, and it might pile a lot of other issues on top of it.
That can feel even worse when you already struggle with anxiety and depression. But I’m also going to tell you that you are 100% strong enough to get through every single thing life hands you, EVEN when you have a mental illness.
Counseling can be really scary – but it’s totally worth it
There are a ton of reasons why someone doesn’t go to counseling. They might be scared, nervous, have outside sources of stigma, etc.
And I’m telling you the truth: counseling/therapy IS very scary! I know that from experience.
I did counseling once in 6th grade. It was about a year after my brother passed away, and my teacher at the time recommended it. When I went for the first time, I really didn’t know what to expect (how can you when you’re 11?) and it did not go well, lol.
I absolutely hated it. After a while, I ended up just pretending like everything was fine each time I went in, and, eventually, I stopped getting called in. I avoided counseling at all costs after that.
It wasn’t until the incident in 2017 I told you about earlier that I decided to go back. That was the start of my sophomore year in college.
I kept up with it for that whole school year, and I can tell you now that it changed my life. I stayed with it through the thick of my depression and it was the best tool I had in my belt at the time.
Looking back, I was very fortunate for my counseling experience. I had two amazing therapists and came across the perfect consistency right away (I went once every two weeks.)
Starting therapy might not be as great for you, at first. More often than not, it’s a bumpy road at first. It takes trial and error to make counseling work for you!
But it’s very, VERY much so worth the effort. I don’t mean it lightly when I say it changed my life, and it can change yours, too.
You can’t hide your demons from those that love you
I used to be someone that hid everything from everyone. We all think we can do that at some point in our lives, but it’s very unhealthy.
In middle school and high school, I worked really hard to not let people in. (I cried a TON, but I didn’t say why lol) It was a major struggle, but I eventually realized something about doing that.
No matter how hard you try to hide things and no matter how high you build your walls, the people that truly love and care about your will be able to see right through it all like they have x-ray vision.
They might not know the details, but they know. You find it in the moments when they ask, “Are you doing okay? You seem off.” It shows when they know you’re going through a hard time and they won’t leave you alone, no matter how much you say, “I’m fine.”
You can hide those things from the random, less important people in your life, but not from the people that truly care for you.
When that finally clicked for me, it was like a light bulb went off. I knew that some amazing people in my life (hi mom, Alex, Anna and Forrest!) already knew that I wasn’t okay.
It made it easier to open up to them fully. I didn’t have to try and explain why I was so depressed (insert whatever thing or emotion you’re struggling with) to someone who had no idea. Talking to them was just like filling in the gaps and it wasn’t as hard.
If you’re struggling with opening up, try talking to someone who loves you dearly. They already see through you, so it won’t be like trying to talk to someone who has no idea. It’ll be easier!
Ready to take what you’re reading to the next level? Check this out!
You choose to be happy
Ahhh…this might be the most important thing I’ve learned over the past 3 years. Honestly, it’s brought me to what I’m doing now (AKA creating content like this!)
For a very long time, I viewed having mental illness like it was in control. Like I was just waiting for it to be over so I could move on and find joy again.
That was a terrible mindset to have. And I know that a LOT of people have it. They are just playing the waiting game with their anxiety or depression.
So often, I see people just waiting for their illnesses to be done and letting it control them. But here’s what happens when you wait: your mental illness never stops controlling you.
(Is your mind blown yet?)
You’ll be stuck inside of your negative thinking for the rest of your life if you don’t take control back. If you don’t start choosing your own happiness.
Happiness isn’t waiting for you. It’s not a castle sitting at the end of the road that is anxiety or depression. You have to create it. You have to reach out and claim it as your own, like…right now.
THAT is how you defeat mental illness. When you stop letting it control you, and instead start controlling it.
It’s a whole, long process to choose your own joy, but it’s ALWAYS worth it! When I finally figured that out, it changed the game for me. I moved on from my mental illnesses way faster when I created my own happiness.
It’s time you do that, too. 🙂
A part of creating your own joy is practicing self-care that is *SUPER* beneficial to you. Check out this 14 Day Self-Care Challenge to help you do that!
You now know some of the things to understand about mental health!
When you know these things NOW, you’re setting yourself up for success. You don’t have to do all the work that I did to learn them, and that puts you way ahead of the game!
Have YOU learned any lessons about mental health so far on your journey? Let me know in the comments below!