I want to write openly about mental health, art, and youth. And I want to do so by sharing a little bit about myself.
It feels like, in both my personal-public circles and the global public at large, upsetting events tied to unaddressed mental health issues are growing. Recently, friends and family close to me have been discussing more openly their mental health. And I'm grateful for this.
I want to say something to help, but I also understand there's no absolute solution or one-size-fits-all statement that will do the trick. Instead, I'll just list a bunch of my experiences and thoughts, and perhaps something will resonate with/comfort you.
Before I do, I think the most important purpose of this is to feel like we're not alone. If you have the time (and I promise it won't take long), please comment on this blog post below. You can share a thought or experience of your own; or if you don't know what to say, a simple heart <3 is just perfect too. Questions are absolutely welcome.
In order to comment, the website will ask for your name, email, and website. But all you are required to fill in is your name. You can skip the email and website portions if you'd like. Just type your name, nickname, or "Anonymous" then hit "Comment as Guest."
I hope none of us have to feel alone in our thoughts. Even the encouragement and positive thoughts of a stranger can be uplifting.
Here are my thoughts and experiences:
None of my feelings and thoughts are invalid. And neither are any of yours. One thing I didn't learn until a few years ago is the idea of invalidation, particularly subtle invalidation with how we speak and act. If I'm sharing that I'm upset about something even as mundane as the stranger on the street scoffing at me for not knowing which way I wanted to walk, it doesn't help to hear that I should just get over it or that it was nothing. I may or may not be truly upset about the event or experience, but I still felt something because of it. Validating others' experiences is not necessarily agreeing with them either — it's just a way fo reassuring that you're listening. And not all invalidation occurs with negative feelings, sometimes unintentional invalidation occurs when we tell people to calm down about something they're clearly excited about. I'm still learning myself to not invalidate others.
In elementary school, I used to not eat my lunches. I don't know why, but I would be too embarrassed to eat. I think I felt like everyone was watching me — judging what or how I was eating. Maybe I felt different with some of my more ethnic lunches? Maybe one person made a comment that affected me and caused it all — I'm not sure. Fortunately, I have no issue eating with other people anymore.
Despite loving being in front of a crowd, I get anxious about creating my own crowd. I loved giving class presentations in school and I used to be in theatre. But generally speaking, unless there was a set, recognizable reason for me to approach or talk to other people (individually or in groups), I would get anxious. I still see this anxiety now with "networking" situations and settings where I could potentially make friends.
A lot of my friends have or have dealt with depression or anxiety in some form or another. It's honestly harder to think about who might not be affected in my social circles. There are many shapes and sizes of depression and anxiety — none of them are invalid. Around half of those close to me that have dealt with depression or anxiety have sought professional help and/or take medications.
I have never seen a therapist or taken medication myself. Because of this, I can't be completely sure the classification of my depression; however, I am fairly certain that I meet the diagnostic criteria for mild depressive symptoms. The sporadic frequency and duration of my symptoms are what confuse me. Since the bouts of symptoms occur for such a short time, I've never felt like I strongly needed to approach professional help for this. This might be inappropriate (at least for others' cases), but I know I can seek help if I need it. I am thankful for my strong support system.
My most recent episode was just two weeks ago. At the lowest point, I had the greatest difficulty ever getting up in the morning for work. I was so close to calling out, but I felt like I couldn't and that it would be bad to do so. It was already past the allotted time for calling out according to protocol. So I went to work anyway. It was hard to get through it. For those days, I felt worthless, particularly when I thought about work and my financial situation. I know how much I've accomplished already — I love sharing that with others — but I still couldn't help but feel inadequate. I felt like I was wasting my time or not doing enough with my career. I felt like others were perceiving me as dispassionate, especially with art. I felt like I needed to prove every aspect of my personality, goals, and intentions to everyone without feeling judged — but then still feeling like I was being judged. I had just returned from a trip to California, but was homesick for it already. I think I cried once a day.
Four of my absolute, very best friends are in California. I often feel lonely and without friends in New York. Before I say more though, there are definitely people I love and care so much for here on the East Coast. It's difficult to describe the loneliness even now because I'm surrounded by friends in New York, but the absence and distance from these friends I love in California sometimes leaves a seemingly unfillable hole. The same goes for missing my family.
Social circle drifting in high school made me feel lonely. The people I liked to talk to in high school each belonged to different social circles, and I also wanted to be close to a lot of these people. So, I often had to jump from circle to circle to see everyone I wanted to. As a result, I never spent enough time to really get close with anyone. For some time in high school (mostly the first years), I felt like I didn't belong to any one circle. In fact, I felt like I wasn't very close to anyone at all (except maybe one or two people at a time). This changed as time went on and I shifted perspectives, but it wasn't easy.
Art is both a cause and a treatment for me. Art and creative endeavors bring a lot worry and concern for me, particularly around the ideas of money and career. At the same time, art has been a reason for me to feel proud, unique, skilled, and more. This feels like a larger issue rooted in a societal system.
At one point, my romantic life was one of the largest influencers of my mental health. A lot of my sense of self-worth was fixed to how I perceived myself through the lens of my love life. Being gay was an added weight. This would be its own long list for a blog post, but the gist of it is that my worthiness or capability to be in a relationship defined my identity.
More than one person can deal with mental health issues at a time. I'll use an example with my family because I know it's not the case. If my parents know I'm dealing with depression, they shouldn't assume that my sister is fine. And they definitely shouldn't ignore her unique needs. And just because I'm having an episode, it doesn't mean my parents aren't either. No one is exempt from mental health, and definitely not exempt just because someone near them is dealing with it already. Check on all your loved ones and open your heart to everyone.
Check on your loved ones.
Listen to others and listen to yourself.
There is no weakness in asking for help. There is no price to offering help.
If it's something you can manage, channel your feeling or thoughts into your craft. There's absolutely a healthy way of doing that.
Read about depression and its symptoms here.
Read about anxiety and its symptoms here.
Read another empowering personal account of mental illness here.
Reach out to me or Easton on social media or our contact page.
Reach out to a hotline if you need. The directory is super extensive, free, available 24/7, and confidential.
Thank you so much for reading.
Kai and Easton