Most of my life, I didn’t think anyone could possibly understand how I was feeling and what I was thinking, and that made it hard for me to be honest. I also didn’t want anyone to think that I was crazy. I thought I had to pretend to be happy so I could seem “normal” and not feel out of place, but that made me feel even more alone.
Because I wasn’t being myself, it was like no one knew the real me. I was tired of being someone else, but I didn’t know how to be me without my sadness, and I believed I was going to feel this way forever. I knew I couldn’t get better alone, but I didn’t know who to talk to or how to ask for help.
Then it all changed. One day, when I was in treatment, I got upset and started crying and ran off into a different room so I could be alone. A couple of minutes later, the girls I was in the house with came in and asked me what was wrong. I told them I didn’t want to talk about it, but one of them told me that, in treatment, we all work together to help each other get better, because we don’t have to do this alone anymore.
At first, I didn’t want to listen. I wanted to just sit there by myself and do what I was comfortable doing, which was sitting in my sadness and letting it consume me. But then it started to sink in. That was the first time I heard someone say those words and I really felt like they meant it, and it changed my journey of recovery.
Hearing someone say to me, “You don’t have to do this alone” and “I can help you get better” felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Before that, every time I did anything I felt heavy. Waking up was an accomplishment and so was getting out of bed. Pretending to be happy took a lot of effort, and I barely had any energy to do anything. I was tired of feeling how I was feeling, but I didn’t know what to do about it. It seemed hopeless to explain to someone else what was happening, because I felt so alone. I didn’t realize how many other people are dealing with the same things that I was struggling with each day.
Not every story is the same, but it isn’t about the details — it’s about knowing that someone understands you and how you are feeling. I don’t feel alone anymore. I don’t feel like my emotions are out of place. I can talk about how I’m feeling openly and honestly, and when I feel down, I talk to someone about it. I still struggle through days sometimes, but I know that I have people who love and support me and will be there with me through the tough times. I truly believe now that I am not alone.
Consider the following resources if you are experiencing mental illness and want to seek help now. If you want to discuss a mental health issue, including symptoms and treatment, call the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). If you are in crisis, text 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For international resources, this list is a good place to start.