Mental illness is not just having an intellectual deficiency, a personality disorder, depression, bipolarity, eating disorder, or an addiction. Our mind goes beyond! The mere fact of constantly feeling sad, low, negative, lost in life, or having thought patterns that cause self-destruction are also considered mental health struggles.
The mindset we have created and live upon is that if you are good looking, popular, successful in your career, show yourself as a confident leader, have a stable lifestyle that includes a high paying job, a long-lasting relationship, and a home and family to go to every day…then you may not be suffering from mental illness.
Do you honestly take this as true?
The stigma of mental illness is causing the majority of society to not only hide their real selves but also to avoid social interactions, avoid getting help and even making them sicker. We hold a negative attitude towards mental health and consider people suffering from it as “crazy” “weird” and “unhealthy.”
I believe there is an urgent need for modifying this mindset and breaking the stigma, as the new generations will be falling into deeper levels of suffering.
Because of all this, today I want to use my own story as a case study, as I too suffered from mental health.
It all started a little before University when I experienced severe insomnia. I remember the first night like it happened yesterday. The constant flow of unrealistic thoughts about myself and my future, the stomach ache, the wandering around in my bed from one corner to another telling my mind to just STOP (unsuccessfully), and the warmth running through my body as the stress and anxiety kept increasing. This went on all night long until I heard my dad’s morning alarm and I haven’t had even 10 minutes of sleep.
From here onwards – the not having a clear self-identity, where I was heading to, and the uncertainty about the future made me lack confidence and self-esteem, feel ridiculous and unworthy. These thoughts and feelings gradually expanded to a point where it got out of control and I began to have misbehaviors.
While all my family, friends and colleagues thought of me being brave and confident enough to have left my hometown at the age of 17 to a new city, I was terrified and felt so small.
I carried all my insecurities, my low sense of self, my little knowledge on how to handle my emotions, and the lack of self-worth to the unknown. I felt like I was thrown in a whole new world, all alone, where instead of opportunities I saw pranks from the Universe making me feel even worse about myself.
I couldn’t stop the overthinking.
I was completely controlled by my mind, which made me behave in ways that weren’t really aligned with the real person living inside me. However, I still preferred listening to that inner voice.
This caused my social anxiety to rise. I was constantly looking for excuses to avoid social gatherings, never knew what to say or how to communicate effectively. I wasn’t capable of sharing my thoughts, opinions or feelings towards my loved ones, and even caused misunderstandings with my friends.
The anxiety was present in all areas of my life.
At dance school I was afraid of others watching me dance and progress, I was always in the back wondering how ridiculous I was. At University I thought I was just average and not worthy of getting good grades. I also thought I was never going to get a job as a psychologist. The inner critic always had a word against me!
…The crazy part comes now!
Forget about my exhausting thoughts for a moment. All of the stress, anxiety, and the unableness of figuring out why I was thinking or feeling such ways made me create bad habits.
I ate raw rice (YES, you read right!) as the hardness somehow helped me reduce the stress and then replaced this habit with scratching my arms until the blood calmed the stress (massive self-harm!). This kept going on for years until I spoke my truth and found balance in my mental state.
Who would imagine someone like this who – became a licensed psychologist, graduated from modern dance, had really good and strong friendships, was financially stable, had support and love from family, was working out every day, had all the material goods she wanted, traveling all the time…could be going through such an internal battle?
I share this because I want you to know that every story matters and how important it is to go on a personal development journey to build your self-awareness. The more conscious you are about the thoughts you are having, the emotions you feel, the values you have, the strengths and weaknesses that characterize you, the easier it will be for you to identify, know, understand, and change anything that doesn’t feel right.
“How did you overcome all this, Sherina?” – You ask.
I started to ask myself serious questions, spend more time alone to connect with myself, figure out what I like doing and what I don’t, I visualized how I’d rather like to be and how I’d rather live my life, and how it would feel living under my own terms.
I no longer wanted to be that person trying so hard to fit into an image that was already created for me. I took the decision to change that and practice doing things for myself. I decided to enjoy things I was passionate about, figure out the real person living inside me and practice being me. In a few months I noticed that the more authentic and real I was being, the more I was getting from life, the happier and healthier I felt, and most importantly, I realized that people don’t really care about what you say or do. Because everyone has their own journey and their own inner battles to fight for.
I continued this self-growth ever since and applied it in all areas of my life. I did not only build myself up as a person and have a strong sense of self, but I also began to attract uplifting people in my life, attract the perfect opportunities, feel blessed for everything I have and own, and eventually, feel like I am over those limiting self-created thoughts about myself.
I highly encourage you to get the support you need! If you are not ready yet, you can always start a journal and write a few pages every day expressing your thoughts and emotions (I guarantee this is highly therapeutical!)