I’ve had depression since I was 12. I used to be afraid of people finding out, so I kept track of who knew and tried to keep it quiet. I remember feeling angry when my parents told my extended family that I was experiencing severe suicidal thoughts. I was angry because I was ashamed about how I felt and what was going through my head on a near daily basis.
But it doesn’t bother me anymore that people know about my situation. In fact, I’d rather make it known.
I struggled this past academic year. I stumbled and fell many times. From early November to late March, I descended a downward spiral in what became one of the worst periods of my life.
I remember countless times sitting in my dorm’s study rooms, just crying while listening to music. I remember feeling that I was unwanted and a burden to everyone I knew. I really believed at times that people would be better off if I were dead.
Eventually, in late March, I told myself I needed to get more help. I took a leave of absence for the semester with the hopes of returning in the fall. It was a difficult decision, but I’m so glad I made it. It’s helped, finally.
Now, I share my experiences with mental illness because I want to give a voice to this very real struggle that so many people face. I want to turn my mental illness around and do something good with it. I don’t want to let it control me or my life. I want to help other people along the way. I want to tear down the stigma that surrounds mental illness, brick by brick or with cannon fire.
And this is an endeavor in which we can all take part, since nobody should ever have to go through this alone. If you experience mental illness, don’t be afraid to get help, and don’t be hesitant to accept your condition as it is. I kept telling myself that I could make it through the semester, when really I should’ve taken a leave far earlier in the spring. In some ways, I was in denial, when in reality I needed a higher form of care. Asking for help, especially when you most need it, doesn’t mean you’re weak. It shows how brave you truly are.
One way to ask for help is to find therapy that works for you, whether individual, group or both, and don’t feel discouraged when you hit a roadblock. The process of seeking and undergoing treatment can be really taxing but ultimately extremely rewarding. Just don’t give in when you encounter a setback.
At Georgetown, there are ways to address this issue, such as joining Active Minds, a student group on campus whose main intention is to spread awareness of mental health. Advocating to the Georgetown University Student Association will help focus on specific campus policies in order to make change. Even checking in with someone and asking how they’re doing can go a long way, more than you might imagine. It can make a world of a difference to know that someone out there cares when you’re in those times of crisis.
So look out for your friends, family and fellow students, even when they might seem okay, and always remind them how much they are truly loved. In an even larger sense, never let your voice go quiet when it comes to fighting against mental illness, especially when you wish to speak up. If you have or are experiencing some form of mental illness, I challenge you not to let your story go untold. And for those who are not, join in with that shared voice and never stop striving to make a difference.
Michael Neary is a junior in the College.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article referenced a specific form of suicide, which has since been removed.