30 Things I Learned About Mental Health That Everyone Should Know By 30

by Zara Barrie

Today, I'm going to bestow all of you 20-something vixens with a very important PSA: Don't believe anything you see, read or hear about life in your 20s from people who are out of their 20s.

They've blocked out the dismal reality of their 20th decade and have replaced the dark, screwy memories with a glittery fantasy of how it all went down.

"Oh, it's BEST time of your life," the masses will purr to you, gazing into the distance longingly.

"You'll NEVER have that body again, honey! Enjoy it!"

And yes, your body might look nice in your 20s, but let's be honest, babe. It's also not going to fall apart the moment you turn 30.

PSA: Don't believe anything you see, read or hear about life in your 20s.

So, get over it. That's not enough of a reason to deem this hot mess, haphazard decade "the greatest time of your life."

You drink too much at the party and throw up on a debutante's $1,000 shoes.

You work hard as fuck in college to get that job at the glossy fashion magazine, only to get the job at the glossy fashion magazine and realize, "Holy shit, I hate the job at the glossy fashion magazine."

You find the ~love~ of your life, the person you will definitely be with forever, only to find out they've been cheating on you with your best friend for the entire course of your relationship.

You feel very depressed and sad all of the time, but you feel stupid for feeling depressed and sad all of the time because IT'S YOUR 20S AND IT'S ALL SUPPOSED TO BE, LIKE, AMAZING, RIGHT?


Your 20s are a decade in which you don't feel as if your feet are planted into the earth. Instead, you feel as if you're merely floating in raw space.

But that's OK, my sweet kittens.

Because in this decade of great, profound discomfort, we learn pivotal mental health lessons that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

So, sit with the discomfort, baby. It can't kill you (I swear).

And eventually, you'll figure it out. Your feet will finally feel the solid ground, even if you wear 5-inch platforms like me.

Here are 30 mental health lessons I (sort of) figured out by the time I turned 30.

1. Feelings can't kill you.

Feelings can't actually, physically kill you, even though sometimes they're so dire and so dark and so all-consuming that you feel like they're these terrible, deadly monsters that will strangle you to death.

They're not. Feelings are feelings and nothing more. 

They're not monsters that will strangle you death, I promise.

2. Running away from your feelings can kill you.

What can kill you is running away from the bad feels.

Don't numb them with toxic amounts of booze, bottle them all up deep inside of you for so long that you have a heart attack from the incessant panic OR accidentally overdose on the cocktail of pills you popped into your mouth so you wouldn't feel anything at all.

(Oh, girl I've been there. Here is a great resource for help if you're falling into the numbing trap.)

3. You're not going to feel the way you feel right now forever.

Everything is temporary, especially feelings. If it feels SO BAD right now, please, babes, remember it's not going to feel this way forever.

I promise.

Everything is temporary, especially feelings!

4. Don't stigmatize the antidepressants. If you need them, take them.

There is no shame in taking antidepressants when you've found yourself deeply depressed and have lost the will to get out of bed.

Antidepressants saved my life.

5. Sometimes depression is chemical.

Sometimes depression is simply chemical, babes. Don't be ashamed if your brain doesn't naturally produce enough serotonin or dopamine, and you need the help of antidepressants.

Maybe the reason you can't "get over it" is because you have a chemical imbalance in your brain!

Diabetics need to take insulin to stay alive. You might need a good ole SSRI to keep you sane.

6. Sometimes depression is NOT chemical.

Sometimes depression is not chemical, and it's brought on by a physical or emotional trauma, like a bad breakup or a scary childhood memory that follows you around wherever you go.

In these cases, antidepressants will provide a temporary Band-Aid to cover the gaping, sad holes in your life.

But (unfortunately), you can't medicate the demons away. You need to get a therapist you trust and can connect with.

7. Therapy will be the best investment of your 20s. 

In fact, the best investment you can make in your 20s is a fantastic therapist.

Getting the right therapist is like finding the perfect boyfriend or a girlfriend: It doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, kittens!

But when you super connect with your shrink, you'll know right away, and that shrink will change your life forever. (There should be a Tinder that connects patients to shrinks, don't you think?)

8. Heartbreak is the perfect reset button for your life.

Heartbreak will be one of the most important experiences of your 20s, so make sure it happens to you at least once.

When your heart gets cracked wide open, you're able to do the deepest work on yourself.

When your entire kingdom comes crumbling down, you're free to pick up the broken pieces and rebuild the life you really want.

You can custom build your world, baby, and that's worth every fucking tear. 

9. If it's burning, hurting or stinging, something is WRONG. 

I used to have this mantra “if it's not burning, it's not working.”

I used to think that things had to hurt or sting or burn to work, whether it was a relationship, a job, a workout or a diet (*ahem* eating disorder *ahem*).

Now I know if it's burning, it's not working. If something hurts, it's wrong, and you need to stop.

10. Don't think about diets all the time, please and thank you.

Don't waste so much of your precious, beautiful, brilliant brain space thinking about food and weight.

It's boring. Invest that energy into creating wonderful pieces of art, cultivating new friendships, building romantic relationships and dominating your career!

(The thing about dieting is, it's a slippery slope. What starts out as an innocent stab at the Atkins diet can turn into a full-blown eating disorder that overtakes your fabulous life. Don't be afraid to reach out for help.)

11. Don't let other people's opinions of you dictate your self-esteem.

If you let other people's opinion of you dictate your self-esteem, your self-esteem will always be shaky. 

12. The body wants what you give it.

If you give your body nothing but drugs, cigarettes, booze and the occasional Quest Bar (like I did in my 20s), it's going to want drugs, cigarettes, booze and the occasional Quest Bar.

If you give your body vegetables, water and carbs, it's going to crave vegetables, water and carbs (I PROMISE).

13. Failing is a beautiful thing.

If you don't ever fail, you're not taking any courageous, gorgeous risks! And a life without courageous, gorgeous risk-taking is mediocre AF.

You are many things babe, but mediocre is NOT one of them.

A life without courageous, gorgeous risk-taking is mediocre AF.

14. Rejection is protection.

If you ever get rejected, get down on your knees, look into the pale blue sky and thank the beautiful universe.

Rejection is the universe protecting you from an energy vampire and/or a toxic situation. 

15. The story is going to end the way it's supposed to end.

Stop spending so much of your precious time trying to control the story. The story is going to play out exactly how it's supposed to play out.

So, sit back and enjoy the show, you gorgeous creature.

16. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

The other day, I was in Las Vegas watching a girl light up a ciggie at 9 am in the morning while playing with the Dolly Parton slot machine.

My girlfriend looked at the young girl shamelessly smoking indoors (which is allowed in Vegas), turned to me and said, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should."

What a great metaphor for all things in life, don't you think?

17. Owning your embarrassments only makes you sexier.

Pretty is boring. Pretty isn't nuanced.

Pretty is the girl who crosses her legs and never makes a mistake.

Strive to be sexy over pretty. Sexy is complex. Sexy people fall and trip and get tattoos they regret and have a loaded past.

Sexy has depth. Sexy will always outlive pretty, too.

Sexy is complex. Sexy people fall and trip and get tattoos they regret and have a loaded past.

18. Feelings aren't facts.

Just because you FEEL like your boss doesn't like you doesn't mean your boss doesn't like you.

'Cause feelings, baby, are not facts.

19. You're not having a heart attack. It's an anxiety attack, and it will go away in 15 minutes.

If you're young and healthy and suddenly feeling like you're ascending into the thin air and are filled with thoughts like, "THIS IS THE END, OH MY GOD," chances are you're not having a heart-attack.

It's a panic attack, and I swear, panic attacks subside in about 20 minutes.

However, it never hurts to call 911, just to be safe.

I've called 911 on myself while having a panic attack twice. At least you'll get a Xanax out of it.

20. Treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend.

Would you berate your best friend for having a zit on her forehead?

Unless you're a raging bitch, no, you wouldn't. So why do you do that to yourself, sweet kitten?

21. The only relationship you'll have forever is the one you have with yourself.

People you never thought would leave you will leave you. People will die unexpectedly.

That's exactly why you need to cultivate that healthy relationship with yourself. It's the only relationship you're in for life. 

You need to cultivate that healthy relationship with yourself. It's the only one you're in for life.

22. Be careful about listening to advice from people who don't get you.

Not everyone is going to get you, and that's OK.

Just don't take life advice from the people who don't have an inherent understanding of who you are.

23. Don't shame spiral over being a late bloomer.

It's totally OK to be a late bloomer, and we late bloomers are usually the most interesting and creative entities because we didn't settle or follow a course set up for us by the system.

We paved our own way, and carving your own path takes time. 

24. There is no such thing as damaged goods.

The scars will always be there, but our souls can heal. I promise. 

25. It's OK to cut out toxic people in your life, even if they're family.

If you have a person in your life who is mean to you, makes you feel fat and ugly, undermines your opinions or purposefully hurts your feelings, cut them out.

Even if they're blood.

26. Guilt is a useless emotion.

Either don't do the thing that's going to make you feel guilty, or own whatever you did.

27. Value you your life.

If you get to a place where you're playing Russian roulette with your life because you're not even sure if you want to live anymore, stop what you're doing right now and call a friend, a hotline, whatever.

We don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. 

28. The only way to be happy is to be vulnerable AF.

You can't feel the amazing feelings unless you open yourself up to the bad feelings, too.

So, take off that armor of numbness and let yourself ~feel~ honey.

I know it's scary, but the fantastic wonderful feels are so mind-blowingly awesome that they make the dark, ugly feels oh so worth it. 

29. Starting out your day with gratitude changes everything.

Lately, I've been starting my day by thinking about all the things I'm grateful for.

I have a roof over my head. There are fresh fucking daisies in my vase right now, and they smell like heaven.

I have friends who accept and embrace me for who I am. I own a pair of sparkly shoes designed by my icon Courtney Love.

Starting your day out with positive energy attracts more positive energy.

I know I sound like a New Age wonder brat, but it's been life-changing for me to start my day like this.

Plus, what's the worst that happens? You have a few moments of appreciation for the lovely things in your world before your day goes to shit?

And what's the best that happens? You draw even more lovely things into your world?

30. Beware of drinking on antidepressants.

If you're taking antidepressants, be careful of drinking.

Not only can they make it so those pretty blue pills don't even work, but they can give you a strange drunk.

They can make you a bit manic, make the blackout happen faster and make you wake up feel twice as depressed.

I'm not trying to tell you what to do. I'm just telling you this: Beware of drinking on antidepressants.

I'm a veteran pill popper. I know these things.

And if you ever need to message someone to feel less alone, message me, your lesbian big sister.

I'm here for you.