REAL TALK : My Mental Health

My mental health is something I have been working on for the past couple years and it’s a story that I have been tip toeing around since I was 16 years old. I decided it was finally time to tell my story and with May being Mental Health Awareness month it just seemed even more fitting.

First of all, let me start by saying I have never been to a doctor to discuss my mental health (Although I really want to and need to) and I am self-diagnosed based off a lot of research. I am no professional, but I have formulated opinions and conclusion about my own mental health.

Almost 10 years ago, when I was a Sophomore in high school, I went through a lot of change. My two best friends were graduating high school, one was heading to Virginia for college and the other had just gotten married and was a new mother. During this same time, I also experienced my first break-up that ended in heartbreak and shame.

I was lost, hurt and alone. There was no one that I could talk to about what I was going through. My parents wouldn’t understand, my best friends were gone and everyone else just wouldn’t have listened.

By my junior year, the girl I used to be was gone. I was unsure of myself, anxious and somewhat lifeless. By that I mean, I was going through the motions, but on the inside I wasn’t feeling anything. I just did what people wanted me to do. Including being in a 3 year relationship that ended up being very manipulative.

From one unhealthy relationship to another I lost every bit of me that made me who I am. My laughter was gone, my music interests changed, my love for fashion had faded, and I stopped writing because the passion inside of me was gone. I followed the crowd. That’s all the energy I had. I had nothing to give to myself.

For years I just existed. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I felt like I was living in a fog and totally clueless to my purpose in life.

In 2016 my Grandfather passed away and I completely hit my breaking point. I was an emotional wreck. On top of losing my gramps, and best friend, I was going through so many other life changes, from being a full-time college student, trying to juggle my hair business, I was in a new relationship (that was the healthiest relationship I have ever had, but the fact of the matter was/is that he’s black and that unfortunately brought more issues into my life — which is a story for another day) and I decided it was time to finally move out of my parents home. (I was 22/23 so definitely not crazy for wanting to move out, although my Dad’s reaction would have made you feel that way.)

All this change in one year sent me to an emotional overload that landed me at my lowest point. I didn’t know what to do or how to function because I had no idea who I was.

Writing this now I think how easy it could be to get back to that point. It wasn’t even that long ago. Everyday is a struggle within my mind between what I feel like doing vs. what I know I should do. Your mental health is no joke.

Growing up I didn’t give much thought to mental health. And I definitely didn’t think it was the cause of all my problems. Like what is mental health? I thought it only had to do with those who had severe mental issues, like schizophrenia, personality disorders or psychopaths. Just because I struggled with being happy, finding purpose in living and cried all the time didn’t mean my mental health was the cause.

So I pushed through and tried everything I could do to be happy, to find a purpose and give me something to live for. That’s when I became a shopaholic and started to over commit myself. When I was busy I didn’t feel sad. When I was buying something new I didn’t feel empty.

But none of that was the remedy for my mental health issues. It only pushed it deeper and made things worse.

Fall of 2018, I finally came to hard conclusion that I live with depression and anxiety. I had been letting those things cripple me for far too long. My biggest goal for 2019 was to work on my mental health. It’s been hard, but each day I find out more and more about myself that pushes me to keep moving forward.

The biggest things that helped me take back my life and that seemed to lift the fog I was living through was my love for fashion. I started to put more effort into the clothes I was wearing which gave me more confidence in myself. Each day I found that it would be easier to laugh and easier to get up and do what I wanted to do in my life. And from that I found a purpose to live.

My story is just one version. 1 in 5 Americans struggle with some sort of mental illness in a given year. What breaks my heart isn’t just that so many aren’t getting help, but there are so many people who don’t understand or even try to understand mental illnesses.

Some of the things I hear the most from people who don’t understand is: “Why can’t you just be happy?” or “Why are they so selfish? They have family and friends that love them.”

We are not made to live for other people. We are taught at a young age that living for others isn’t okay, it’s unhealthy. So, telling someone who is already struggling with their mental health to think of their family and friends, isn’t helping them. It’s hurting them. Take if from some one who has struggled herself. Giving ultimatums or just stating things like “Just be happy” are pointless. If it was as easy as telling yourself to just be happy, don’t you think we would have already done that?"

Friends and family members to those who suffer of mental illnesses all you can do is be for them, love them and help them, but don’t try to fix them. We aren’t broken people. We are just people who think differently then you.

Friends, who are like me, I want you to know that you are not alone and if you are in the middle of one of the darkest moments in your life, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hope can and will be found. Just keep waking up and pushing to keep on going.

You are loved.

xo, Alyssa