This morning my journal prompt read, “What does vulnerability mean to you?” Thinking only for a moment, my answer came quickly, “Vulnerability is being willing to express the truth and share the core of who you are without inhibition.” Those words have stuck with me all day, infiltrating my every thought and inspiring me to write this post.
Vulnerability is such a powerful tool that we often don’t access because it’s uncomfortable. Feeling vulnerable calls us to peel back layers of pain, guilt and shame that expose the deepest parts of ourselves. Though a difficult place, it’s also a place where great transformation happens. Through sharing those painful experiences, we often form connections, find common ground and heal from simply feeling less alone.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been on here writing regularly. This past year I struggled with depression and anxiety. I’ve wrestled with sharing this with you, my blogging community, but as someone who strongly advocates for the destigmatization of mental illness, I felt compelled. My symptoms began to arise last spring when I was struggling with a difficult math course. No matter how hard I tried to grasp the concepts of the class, my frustration ultimately overtook my ability to focus and complete the course to the best of my ability.
I really questioned my self-worth. I’ve always been an excellent student but I just could not handle the pain of feeling like failure. My ego took a bruising and instead of working through this difficult life-lesson, I allowed it to destroy me. I began to close off to the world, feeling afraid to try new things or even participate in activities I knew I was good at. Social events I once enjoyed seemed impossible with that daunting cloud of anxiety hanging over my head. That feeling of being “stupid” and “unworthy” sat in my gut like a heavy brick deterring me from moving forward.
It was clear that I needed to take a step back and seek help before immersing myself into the demands of college again. So for the past year, that’s what I have been doing. I’m so grateful for the time I’ve had to reflect and grow. Aside from the necessary help from my medical team, I have put in a lot of work myself. But like any journey, I am still constantly working to achieve that balance we’re all trying find.
From all of this, I have learned invaluable lessons:
- Do not be afraid to ask for help. In fact, that might be the most difficult part of the entire process. Speak to your primary care physician, notify a loved one and reach out to a mental healthcare specialist. There is no shame in getting the help you need to live a healthy, happy and full life.
- Take the traumas and make them part of who you’ve come to be. Certainly we can release the painful memories, but we can also integrate the lessons they’ve taught us. For instance, suffering from a mental health condition has made me even more empathetic to those who are also suffering.
- Expect a journey not a quick solution. Healing takes time and that time will be different for everyone. Trust the process, trust the professionals guiding you and be gentle with yourself along the way. Expectations will only feed your frustration.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, here are a list of resources you might find helpful.
Wishing each and every one of you abundant health and happiness,