I was at work, chatting to a friend about my upcoming trip to my psychiatrist.
It’s my anxiety, I said. It’s been acting up again. I might need to go back on meds. My heart keeps racing and my palms are even sweatier than usual. Breathing is a challenge despite me being stationary in front of the computer for 8 hours.
I barely noticed another friend of mine sidling up, apparently listening to the conversation. I gave him a brief acknowledgement before going right back to my story.
I’ve never heard someone talk about seeing a therapist as casually as you do, he said when I finished.
I shrugged. It’s not something I’m totally ashamed of.
My mind is ill, and I need help to fix it.
For me, it’s really that simple: I’m sick and I need professionals to help me get better. It took a long time for me to recognize that my depression and anxiety are not ingrained personal defects, nor are they the sole defining aspects of my personality.
I talk about those diagnoses casually because I refuse to be held hostage by stigma. For years, I didn’t go to therapy because what would other people say?
In college, when I met with our guidance counselor, I was mortified when my peers found out. I distinctly remember a classmate looking at me oddly, as though after seeing me daily for nearly two years, she only just noticed that I had tentacles sprouting out of my head. The collective thought was so loud, I could nearly hear it: how could a person as outwardly cheery as me have depression?
I like to think that I defy the (incorrect) stereotype that depressives are extreme introverts who never speak, smile, or socialize.
I am constantly yammering away, laughing my ass off, and I surround myself with people who love me. The contrast of my disposition against my diagnoses throws a lot of people off. I’m fine with that.
I’ve found that people are a lot less hesitant to seek professional help if they know someone who does the same. Ever since I began speaking about my struggles with mental health, I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and tell me that they’re thinking of talking to a psychologist, too. So I’ll continue to be as open about my diagnosis as I can. I want others to take comfort in the knowledge that they’re not alone. Let’s normalize the conversation on mental health.