May is mental health awareness month, where we as a society are encouraged to speak about, plan, incorporate, celebrate, and bring attention to our mental health. Yet for many, myself included, acknowledging and tending to our mental health is a daily process and has turned into a lifelong journey. Filled with highs, lows, and everything in between, often when you think you are at the bottom, you can still end up even further from your idealized notion of self than the time prior. This is normal for me; my mind will always find ways to situate me in despair. This is depression. This is anxiety. This is 2021.
2021: with the expectations to be independent, be strong, be a feminist, be a leader, be an activist, be educated, be the best, save the planet, own assets, buy material items of substance, sell your soul, make things, build credit, create your brand, get followers, sell out, jump on the band wagon, be a rebel, hold yourself accountable, scream, yell, vote, fight, cry, live, drink, conform, get in line, meaning, unless you realize your value you are worth less, worthless. Thanks to preconceived notions of being born handicapped since gender has value, well, fuck gender, you’re amazing, change your perspective, work harder, subscribe, smile, sex sells, you have a nice body but just an okay face, sell your flesh, sew your skin, you’re assuming and uneducated, be quiet, even though you live this. Burn the candle at both ends and gloat about it, tattoo it on your arm, and the expectations, the empathy, the reality, the illness, the bad food, the conspiracies, the money, the capitalism, the pain, the facade, the suffering, the solitude, the exhaustion. How does one find solace?
But it all keeps saying! “But you’re successful!... But life is amazing! ... But you have opportunities!... But you should be thankful!... But you have no reason to be depressed!... But you’re not suicidal anymore, right?” I get it, yet for those who don’t: This is depression. This is anxiety. This is daily, once again, per-usual, I break. Diving head first into the comforting depths of darkness submerged in suffering, suffocating in society, grasping for everything and anything that would— Just. Let. Me. Be. Self-medicate, I learn through experience once again.
There are more ways to kill yourself than suicide.
Because of my privilege, I was able to check out. I found silence in an unexpected place, and I am shameless for having the chance to curate a better toolkit for existence. I found my “dharma,” I practice “ahimsa,” and I can laugh at myself, with love while writing these words. I can also cry, and hold myself, with love. I have opened the space, to once again, attempt to heal, and there is no gimmick, but instead a few requirements:  Allow myself the opportunity to change. It is the most difficult thing to provide myself space and permission in order to explore ways of healing. I had convinced myself it should come last.  To consistently mentally check in on what is happening in order to see what I am doing to myself. At what point am I willing to acknowledge and observe my habits of self-deprecation, and at what cost? I have a hard time wondering if it is a vulnerability to commit to a life attempting to make peace with my ego, and to practice not harming myself, because as noted earlier, this is depression and anxiety in 2021.
Most do not have the luxury to check out, and everyone needs to begin the practice of checking in. How does this look for our communities? What can we do to make it the standard to put mental health first, before success, before relationships, before education, before career, before crisis? How do we make it normal and easier to ask for help, and then, to provide the assistance actually needed? I don’t have the answers, but I want us as a community to explore this.
My sharing this is isn’t for me. My ego tells me I’m being weak while my insecurities tell me this is narcissistic, but as I’m learning, I don’t need to be strong or selfless all the time. Instead, this is for others, to encourage them to check in on their own mental health. If you think I am speaking to you, it’s because I am. If you are asking yourself, “Does this relate to me…,” the answer is yes. I want to see you, hear you, appreciate you, and I hope you ask for help, I hope you choose to remain. You are not alone.
Thank you to my friends and family, old and new, who are compassionate towards my mental illness and hear me when I ask for help.