Let’s be honest: talking about mental health is hard. It’s broad, it can feel all encompassing and because everyone has their own experience, it can become complicated very quickly. Oftentimes, conversations about mental health can be overwhelming, and we can’t always find the solutions we need because of it. While talking about mental health and mental illness is hard, talking about our own mental health is even harder. It can feel impossible for people to talk about their own mental health; in fact, some people never open up about this part of their life. It can involve very personal experiences and emotions they’ve never shared with anyone, and the stigma attached to mental health issues could also play a significant role. When I was first dealing with mental health issues, I was bad about opening up. But somewhere in the last ten years, I got better at sharing my story. Here’s how that happened, and how it changed the way I view myself and my mental health challenges.
I’ve always had a lot of trouble talking about myself. Chalk it up to a lack of self-esteem, introverted nature, whatever you want to call it, but I’ve long been uncomfortable talking about myself and my own experience. But I do think that, beyond my own insecurities and struggles, is a real challenge when it comes to talking about our experiences. Regardless of how confident we feel, there are so many factors to consider when talking about ourselves, especially when it comes to talking about something that can be as sensitive as mental health.
When I started dealing with anxiety and depression, I struggled to talk about it. Beyond my own challenge, it also felt like a logistical puzzle. How much should I tell someone? How much do they care? Am I oversharing, or providing too many unnecessary details? When I’m talking, am I even making sense?
These questions (and a million others ones) are the ones that often got in the way of people opening up. Things quickly become overwhelming, and people can’t have the conversation they were hoping to have. Not only does this perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health, but it makes it harder for people to open up about the more personal aspects of their lives.
In the ten years I’ve lived with anxiety and depression, I can confidently say I’ve improved at sharing my story and talking about my own mental health. When I think about how I got better at doing this, I kept coming back to one thought: I kept going. The first time I shared my story, I felt extremely awkward. The second time, the third time, the fourth time…same thing. But at some point, talking about this became easier. I learned the right words to use, which gave me confidence to be accurate in what I was saying. I grew more comfortable in being vulnerable, and stood stronger in my story. No matter where you are in sharing your story, I hope you have the courage to continue telling it.