Updated: Feb 1, 2019
By Michele Salinas
We live in a generation where mental health is something everyone talks about and yet we also joke about it in casual conversation. I always hear people say “I’m so depressed” when they are sad something small didn’t turn out their way—like Chipotle running out of guacamole.
People say things like a reality TV show about rich housewives is giving them anxiety, or that a messy room is making their OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) act up. I have friends who suffer from each of these mental-health issues. I’ve seen how their illness takes over their life and the choices they make. I’ve seen friends break down because of the struggle of enduring a mental-health illness while trying to live as normally as possible. To use these illnesses to describe normal frustrations and happenstances in our everyday lives trivializes the seriousness of mental-health issues.
This isn’t to discredit any of the people who have mental-health issues but perhaps not severely as others, nor is it to suggest that people have to be at the most severe end of the spectrum to be diagnosed with some of the aforementioned conditions, but rather to make it known how overwhelming and overpowering these illnesses can be in a person's life and how these phrases shouldn’t be used lightly. In 2016, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that 1-in-6 (44.7 million) adults over 18 have a mental illness, with the percentage higher among women than men. Millennials in the peak of their lives aged 18-25 had the highest prevalence of mental illness.
Depression runs in my family and I suffer from it too. I’ve struggled with it for years and even though the strength of it comes in waves, it’s always there. It has ruined relationships I’ve had with people and even the way I enjoy certain experiences. It’s something I’ve seen family members struggle with and something that I’ve realized can destroy a person’s life.
Depression can be like that skirt you bought last season and you forgot about—sometimes it is out of sight and out of mind, but still with the potential to peek out from the back of your dresser, ready to overwhelm you at any moment. It’s a crash of sadness coming over you and there being nothing you can do to make it go away. Or like those Sour Patch Kids commercials—first everything is sour, then it’s sweet. Depression can have your moods up and down just like that. While part of you is depressed, the other part is begging your mind to relinquish itself from the sadness so that you can feel joy again.
Picture yourself out on a picnic in the park with your friends on a hot summer day. While everyone is sitting on top of the picnic blanket, you feel like you’re suffocating underneath it, and the only person who can see your struggle is you. That’s what depression feels like—painful and lonely even when you’re in a room full of your favorite people.
I think the most difficult part is acknowledging your diagnosis and learning how to live your best life at the same time. Everyone handles her mental health in a different way, but understanding that it is not something you can pretend doesn’t exist needs to be universal. I’ve learned having a stable support system is essential to my healing process. Having people who are patient and understanding have made my experience with depression just a bit more bearable. Knowing someone believes that I can be better and push through the struggle of a mental-health issue encourages me to learn how to live with depression.
Learning how to live with a mental illness in a society that often doesn’t take it seriously can be detrimental to a person’s health because then it’s easy to feel like mental health is something to ignore or even joke about. Nevertheless, if you are dealing with a mental-health condition, learn to care for yourself regardless of how other people view you. Choose to better yourself by learning what your triggers are and what relieves your mental illness. Understanding that mental health is something worth investing in and learning about can change your life immensely. I can’t lie, it’s something I haven’t invested in as much as I should, but I acknowledge that it is something that I need to work on and that on its own is the first step to improvement. Mental illness is not something to be discouraged by, it’s just another part of your life that makes you the person you are. Take care of yourself, find your balance, and find ways to live your best life.
Can you relate to people joking about mental-illness? How do you deal with depression and anxiety? Let us know in the comments below!