A letter to myself about mental health

Dear Self,

You haven’t written a blog post in about 313 days. That means over 85% of the year has passed without a peep from you on here, despite the many empty promises I’ve heard you make to yourself. I thought you really loved this blog, yet you’ve essentially disappeared. But whatever. It happens.

Though, if I’m being honest, it also feels as if you’ve kind of disappeared from life. Your social media platforms are slowly going radio silent. You don’t participate in many social events on campus (even if you promise yourself you’ll go to them). You haven’t contacted your best friends in a while…or your mom, for that matter. And hell, you’re even struggling to showing up to the office most of the time. Like right now, for example. You’re hiding in the library. I mean, I guess you technically went into the office today, but only to place a sticky note on your desk telling everyone that you’re working nearby. Which, may I add, is a half truth. You’re nearby. But you’re certainly not working.

Again, it happens.

But stop hiding behind people’s assumptions that you’re so busy and passionate about what you do that some days you just lose all concept of time or whatever expectations people try and place on academics these days… Because, you know deep down, it’s been quite the opposite. The amount of productive material you’ve churned out this past month is almost pathetic and I’ve lost count of the amount of times you ended the day crying out of sheer frustration because your lack of concentration and motivation have impeded your ability to cross anything off your to do list despite quickly approaching deadlines.

Hun, you’re struggling.

You’re mentally unwell.

You are depressed.

Now, let me remind you that poor mental health is not foreign to us. You were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder in your first year of grad school (because, let’s face it… if there’s one thing grad school loves doing is aggravating pre-existing mental health concerns). And because of that you’ve been going to therapy on and off for the past few years. And for a second there, you seemed to be getting better. I honestly thought we were in the clear.

But, like an idiot, you once again(!!) underestimated just how hard this was going to be. As if just getting a diagnosis was all it took to make things better. Sure, grad school will still be a little shitty, you thought, but I know what’s wrong now so I’ll just blame the anxiety and brute force my way through it.

Oh really? When in your life has that ever worked?

Even when your therapist cautioned that your “anxiety baseline” was getting higher… It’s fine. I’m fine. It’s just a minor set back. Or when she mentioned that maybe you should consider medication… No, no, no. It’s just that darn midway grad school slump. Every grad student gets depressed. I was warned about this. I’ll handle it… Or even when you, yourself, noticed the anxiety turning into something more sinister–a depression, perhaps…Medication would mean I’m broken…that was gradually beginning to affect not only your life… I just need a vacation… but the lives of those around you…I’m not broken…you still stubbornly thought, I’m fine.

Newsflash! You weren’t and aren’t fine. In fact, right now, you’re the exact opposite of fine. Did you really think you could brute force yourself through this? That if you turned your nose up at these “darn illogical emotions” you could just avoid dealing with them until they went away? Because that’s not how mental illnesses work. Yes, you read that correctly. You. Have. A. Mental. Illness.

And sure, maybe you don’t “have it as bad as others” and often you feel as if you’re “too privileged” to “deserve” to call yourself mentally ill. But as we have learned time and time again, mental illness doesn’t discriminate. This anxiety disorder, and now this depression that’s forming, is the very definition of a mental illness.

And it sucks. I know. But having a mental illness doesn’t mean that you’re broken nor does it mean you’ve failed in some way. And it definitely doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up every time you feel like “it” is winning. Because, there’s no winning or losing. It just means is that you need some help–whether that means taking medication or even deciding academia isn’t the place for you, that’s for you to decide. But regardless of what help looks like for you, one thing is for sure: it’s only after accepting this will things get better. Not easy–but better.

Just remember to be kind to yourself during this process…

With love,
Krystal

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3 thoughts on “A letter to myself about mental health”

  1. Thank you for this letter to yourself, Krystal. It is absolutely right. You’re not broken nor it is anyone going through the same situation. I find funny that we can see this logic on others but we aren’t able to apply it to ourselves, and this post was a good reminder that I have to keep an eye for my own mental health, to be kind and look after myself as much as I do for my family and friends. And whatever you decide, I can assure you that you did the right thing, because you DID something to look after yourself!

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  2. I’m so proud for your strength to recognize you have a mental illness and that you may need help! You’re really brave. Hope you start feeling better soon! 💛

    Like

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