I’ve been thinking and reflecting a lot on my mental health progress ever since I started writing this blog and one thing I realized is how reluctant I was to get help. Back in high school, making sure my mental health was as healthy as the rest of me was not even on my radar. I was so stressed and anxious and caught up in the need to be perfect for my parents, that at the time, I didn’t even consider what it was doing to me.
One of my more significant breakdowns occurred sometime in Grade 11. I wouldn’t call it my biggest or worst breakdown, but looking back on it has definitely made me realize a few things. First, a little back story.
My cousins and I were raised very closely, almost like siblings. Because of this, we always spent huge amounts of time at each others houses and have always been close. I remember that one day, I was over at their place and it happened to be just me and my cousin.
I’m not sure if he knew something was wrong or just wanted to check up on me, but he asked me how I was. At first I was fine, I told him everything was fine but he didn’t believe me. He knew my relationship with my parents was strained and he asked about that. Again I said everything was fine, the same as it had always been. But again, he kept asking. The straw that broke the camel’s back (or in my case what made me breakdown) was when he asked me about my university plans.
Now I know that at the time I was only in grade 11, but my parents always drilled into my head about being prepared and always knowing what you wanted in life. Because of this university was a well discussed topic in my household from the time I started Grade 11. Every mark that wasn’t a 95 was scrutinized.
So, when my cousin asked me about how all this studying and planning was going, I lost it. I folded myself into a corner in the kitchen and started sobbing. In between sobs I cried about how no matter what I did, I would always be a disappointment to my parents, and about how nothing I could do would make them happy.
My cousin was obviously at a loss but he held me, comforted me and assured me that, no matter what happened, even if my parents were disappointed a little, they just wanted me to be happy. At the time, I really did not believe him, but I also did not to talk about my feelings anymore. I agreed and said that I would be fine and that was the end of the discussion for the night.
Over the next few weeks and months, he would repeatedly check in on me and ask me how I was doing. But, for the most part I lied and said everything was fine.
At the time, this experience was clearly not that significant to me. I just wanted to move past it and forget about it. However, looking back now, I realize a couple of things.
First, my heart breaks for the girl that I was and for all the children and teenagers out there going through the same thing that I did. The goal of being perfect and the best was drilled into my head so much by my parents that I didn’t even think they loved me beyond what I could accomplish academically. I know that a lot of people can relate to having family pressures and expectations piling up so high that you feel crushed under them. Every family and every person is different, but something that I think everyone should remember is that if your family truly loves and cares about you, they will want you to be happy more than they want you to kill yourself trying to reach every standard set by them.
I know this sounds very easy to say and probably changes nothing, but the biggest thing holding us (at least it did for me) back from accepting this, is fear. Fear that you’ll be the disappointment your family/loved ones always said you would be. Fear that if you can’t be the person they want you to be, then they’ll leave you. Fear that they won’t love you for who you are.
Now I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but I do like to believe there are more good people than not out there. Usually parents who care that much about how their child does academically, do so because they love the child and want a good life for them. Sometimes our parents just don’t realize how much pressure they are putting on us which is why talking to them is definitely a step in the right direction (at least it was for me).
Another thing I realize is how important it is to check in on your friends/family. That was the first time in a long time that someone sat me down and really tried to find out how I was doing beyond just the surface. Looking back, I truly appreciate the effort my cousin put in, however I only wish I was more receptive to being helped earlier, than trying to convince myself I was fine and didn’t need anyone for so long.
I think that it’s important to check in on your loved ones even if they aren’t receptive. Just showing them that you are there for them can do a lot more good than you think. I was only comfortable opening up to my friends and family after I knew I hit rock bottom, because they showed me that they would always love me and be there for me.
One of the main reasons it took me so long to seek out help and open up was because I didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. I know that people out there have much bigger problems in life and I didn’t want to complain about mine when it wasn’t that bad in comparison to many. This mindset was probably the most harmful to have.
Yes, there will always be someone out there who is going through worse than you, but that does not mean that your feelings and what you are going through count for nothing. Everyone’s experiences, feelings and emotions are valid and no one should make anyone feel otherwise. Being there for people you care about will eventually show them that you aren’t going to leave and hopefully one day they will be comfortable enough to open up.
At least in my case, the fact that my cousins and friends always showed they supported and loved me, made it easier to go to them for help in the end. I definitely think that if I didn’t feel like they loved me unconditionally, that I never would have opened up to them, even after I broke down in front of them.
Take time and check in on those you love. It is very easy to hide mental illnesses and you never know what anyone, even those closest to you could be going through. In my next post I think I’ll talk about how I was able to hide my depression and anxiety for so long. Not everyone who is depressed is sad all the time. But anyways, until next time.
With lots of love,
Your Mental Health Mathie