I never thought that I would write an article detailing my depression. People usually see me as a bubbly, energetic girl who is never seen without a smile on her face. While I know that this is hardly the truth, it is never something I tried to disprove. It is safe to hide behind a facade that offers some security, even if it can be at the detriment to one’s well being. So, I played that part well and I continued to suppress my true feelings. But now, I am ready to come clean.
Growing up, I could never live my life as is. I always felt the need to be smarter, to be prettier, to be more personable, to be better. This desire for achieving more may have motivated me to strive for excellence, but this past year it has taken a tremendous toll on my disposition and overall well being.
Junior year is known by many as “the year that counts.” Students are constantly reminded of 11th grade as one of the last times colleges and universities can see academic excellence. Therefore, it is imperative that rigorous classes are taken and high grades are achieved. This pressure, along with other commitments, drained me. I did not feel like I was myself anymore. Instead, I was an unhappy, stressed-out girl, who always wanted more and who could never simply live her life as is.
My teachers, my family members, and my supporters saw a change in me. I even saw a change in myself. I knew that I needed to seek some assistance.
In April, I was officially diagnosed with depression. It did not come as a surprise, though. It felt as though I did not know who I was anymore.
It was hard for me to come to grips with my depression, and I believe that there were many factors that contributed to this difficulty.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, some of the most common signs of depression are trouble sleeping, moody behavior, and abnormal eating patterns. These traits, however, are often attributed to the typical stressed-out, overworked teenager. It was hard differentiating these behaviors to a larger, more serious issue.
I did not know if this was supposed to be a part of my presumed “teenage angst” or if it represented something larger.
Additionally, depression and other mental illnesses are not widely talked about in my household. From personal experience, I believe that mental health services are not properly illuminated in minority communities, especially communities of color. As an African-American girl, the prospect of me having depression simply never seemed like an option. It is never something that was brought up or mentioned as a possibility. I wondered if I was just weak, or too emotionally incapable of dealing with stressful situations.
In time, I have learned coping mechanisms with my depression, such as meditation and yoga. And while things still are not easy, I am accepting that I am not perfect. I am accepting that I am good enough. I am accepting that I am a 17-year-old African American girl living with depression, and I can learn to live my life simply as is.
This growing acceptance prompted me to create a social movement with a mental wellness component. The social movement is called “As Is.”
As Is wants to see mental health at the forefront of societal issues. In recent years, we have seen a record-breaking increase of mental illnesses in young people which includes depression, eating disorders, and anxiety, among other illnesses. While it is evident that mental health is a pressing issue in today’s world, its stigma slows down widespread reform. Therefore, As Is works to expand access to mental health services for the average American, recognize and address the intersectionality of mental illnesses, provide appropriate accommodations for mental health patients in a professional and/or academic standing, and ultimately, eliminate the stigma of mental health.
Our movement will start by word of mouth. Dozens of people in my community have seen the value in As Is, and would like to join the movement. From there, I hope to see As Is grow. With necessary attention towards mental health, we will see a fairer and healthier country.
So, I encourage you to join the crusade to make mental health conversations more prevalent in society! Don’t shy away from discussing mental health-related topics at the dinner table! Educate yourself on different mental illnesses! Take a Mental Health First Aid course! Do as much as you can to try to normalize the prevalence of mental health challenges — this will only make As Is’ mission even more accomplishable!
While As Is is in its early stages, a tweet or an Instagram post with the hashtag #AsIs will help spread the word! Together, we can illuminate the issues of mental health for a better, more accepting world!
Mental health awareness is always “in”!