It's hard for people to talk about mental illnesses, and for good reason: A lot of people just don't believe you.
They don't believe you're suffering or your symptoms. They think you're overreacting or making things up.
For anyone who has ever struggled, you understand these statements to be, for the most part, true.
So, we keep quiet.
I don't remember when I first started showing symptoms. It started harmlessly enough, though, because it was easy to confuse them for just being cautious.
For example, when I'd leave my parents house, I'd drive back around and take a second look at the house.
At first, I would do it just to make sure, but then I realized I was doing it because I had to.
If I didn't, my heart would speed up. I'd think about everything that would happen if I messed up and left the garage door open, like someone robbing my parents blind.
Around the same time, I'd lie awake in bed and think and think and think. I'd think about all the illnesses that I might get one day.
Sometimes, I'd stay awake all night wondering how young people get heart attacks, and if you know how I felt, you know researching it only makes it worse.
One day, I was convinced I was having a heart attack. That moment haunted me excessively for the rest of the week, and I still remember how it felt now.
One day, my sophomore year of college, I had to quickly run to the mall to return a pair of jeans that didn't fit right. But, I couldn't leave my apartment.
When I say couldn't, I mean I stood in the hallway staring at my front door. I pulled on the handle, knowing it was locked, but I was convinced it would somehow open again.
My cat would run away, I told myself. My neighbors would steal all of my money and my laptop, I told myself.
It was that moment, as I stood in the hallway pulling at my front door, I knew I needed some help.
For me, I knew I wasn't interested in being prescribed anything. (Know that this isn't a solution for everyone.)
I picked apart my life and put the pieces on the table to assess.
In short, some people call it anxiety. Some call it high-functioning anxiety. Some people call it a low-grade mood disorder.
There are many words for feeling a very similar way.
I cut back on my caffeine intake. The amount of caffeine I was taking in on a daily basis was only amping my anxiety up.
Next, I picked up yoga to calm my mind. (Some people pick up running, weight-lifting, knitting, etc. Find your meditation and run with it.)
I bought many yogic texts and read up on permanence. Reading texts that are over 1,000 years old and realizing people at that time were worried about similar things somehow made me feel better.
On top of that, I bought a big water bottle and made myself start drinking more water than ever before because even slight dehydration does some weird stuff to your brain.
I began feeling a little better. I still have bad days, but I think that's normal.
At the end of the day, everyone works differently. I can control my symptoms if I monitor my behaviors and adjust accordingly (ie. more water, exercise, etc.), but I realize not everyone is like that and not everyone wants to be.
Mental health is a tricky bastard, an enigma, a shot in the dark.
If you handle your symptoms the way I do, congratulations. If you seek medication, more power to you.
Everyone person I've met with a mental illness has had a moment like mine, a moment when they finally realized enough was enough, that their behavior wasn't normal or healthy.
But, all of us has found a method that works for us.
So if you're struggling, know we each have different methods of monitoring our symptoms, too.
When it comes to mental health, it's all about what works for you. And know you're not alone.