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Redefining normal. You are more than your mental illness. Lauren’s story of support and healing

"Your feelings are valid and you deserve all the love and care in the world."

Written story

Share your stigma experience.

About 5 years ago, I started to develop clinical depression and anxiety that really affected my ability to function. I had to take the last two months of my senior year off due to my mental health issues and side effects from my antidepressants, which made me wonder why I wasn’t normal like my other peers. It was hard for me to do even the things that I used to be passionate about. I had internalized disdain for my condition and I beat myself up even more for feeling the way I did.

I eventually realized that there were many people around me who dealt with the same issues I did and I questioned why I ever thought I deserved any less for having mental illnesses. I still deal with people every now and then telling me “you have no reason to be sad, your life is great!”, which goes to show the ignorance that people have against mental health. It’s not their fault, either. It’s the expectation that society has created for us to disregard the seriousness of mental health issues.

In all honesty, the criticism from people who don’t understand mental illness has brought me down on occasion. I felt like my problems were invalidated and they didn’t matter just because they were primarily manifested mentally rather than physically. I already had very low self-esteem and hearing these things brought me into a deeper state of anxiety and depression. I felt like I was defined by my mental illnesses and people would never accept me for who I am because of it.

Despite all of this adversity that I’ve faced, I found that I had an amazing support system that accepted me and were willing to help me in any way they could. For me, that far outweighed any of the negative consequences I felt from society and my mental illnesses.

How did you overcome this experience?

I was very lucky to have a strong support system that helped me overcome the stigma that society has associated with my conditions. I decided to reach out to receive treatment for my mental illnesses and both my therapist and psychiatrist reminded me that it’s okay to feel the way that I do. Overall, the people in my life have given me the strength that I didn’t think I could achieve on my own. In fact, I was able to realize my own internal strength with their assistance.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

You are not defined by your mental illness. Your feelings are valid and you deserve all the love and care in the world. Remember to take care of yourself and don’t let others tell you how you should feel. Only you can do that. <3