Barber: 10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Mental Illness


By Shaelyn Barber

My journey with mental illness has been a long one. I have struggled with depression and anxiety from a young age. After years of difficulty, I finally began to see a therapist and began the long road to where I am now. I have been in and out of therapy. I am on medications. And I am trying every day to keep moving forward.

Learning to cope with my mental illness has been extremely trying. I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go. Here are a few things that I wish someone had told me when I started down my path towards mental health.

  1. There is nothing wrong with you. Mental illness is extremely common, and having a mental illness does not make you any less of a person.
  2. Everyone is unique, and everyone experiences mental illness in a unique way. There is no singular way to experience mental illness, how you experience mental illness will be unique to you.
  3. There is nothing wrong with taking medications or going to therapy. I was worried that going to therapy or taking medications was proof that I was crazy because there are many negative stigmas on these things. However, medications and therapy can really help you to feel better, and there is no shame in utilizing these resources.
  4. Improvement takes time. You cannot learn the skills you need to cope and improve overnight. You have to work to slowly find coping mechanisms that work for you and practice them until they become habits.
  5. There is a lot of trial and error before you find what works for you. There are many different ways to deal with mental illness, and you have to try out a variety of methods in order to figure out what will help you best. I tried nearly 10 kinds of medication before I found a combination that worked well for me. I also tested out many coping skills before I figured out which ones are most effective for me personally.
  6. Strive for progress, not perfection. You will mess up. You cannot be perfect all the time, and even after practicing your coping methods for a long time you might make mistakes. Remember that one mistake is not total failure. You just need to keep trying.
  7. You will have ups and downs. You are going to have good days, and you are going to have bad days. Sometimes you will feel great, and you will be doing well managing your mental illness. Sometimes you will have hard days, weeks or months where nothing seems to go right. Do not get discouraged, and know that the good times will come again.
  8. Your feelings are valid. You have every right to be upset, sad or angry. Learning to cope with your mental illness does not mean that you have to be happy all of the time.
  9. Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you are having a hard time, reach out to your loved ones for their support. There are plenty of people out there who care about you and want to help you.
  10. Do not give up. The journey might be long and hard but there are wonderful times ahead for you. Life is difficult, but it is filled with many beautiful things.

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