You’re not alone

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When we decided as an editorial board to do a mental health issue, several of us wanted to share our experiences.

Yes, we are burying the lede (for our non-journalists, this is the main purpose for a story), but we want you to read those experiences first. 

Ever since he was young, one of us has always been keen on helping others and finding solutions to their problems. But he didn’t realize it was his way of ignoring his own problems that he has faced for as long as he could remember. 

After ignoring his symptoms for a long time, it was in 2019 when he finally realized that he needed help.

It took a while for him to realize this because he came from an immigrant, Latinx family, which made him feel as though he had no one to talk to, or even relate to. In his experiences, many Latinx or Hispanic households do not believe that mental illness is real. It wasn’t until his mother was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder that something like this was talked about and semi-accepted in his family.

Since then, he has been more willing to open up to his family about depression, anxiety, self-hatred and the feeling of isolation after shutting himself in his room every day, having trouble breathing after crying for hours and refusing to have any sort of interaction with anyone, all while faking a smile to the world that he was okay, that he was happy.

What aided him in processing and opening himself up more to this situation is making sure he had at least one person to not only talk to but also to try to understand everything he was going through. He no longer has to keep it inside because now he knows people with mental illnesses experience them in different ways.

Internal happiness was a feeling he never knew. He always read about it, but self-love and motivation were two concepts he could only dream of. When he overslept, it was not always because he was on his phone the previous night. Sometimes, he would mentally beat himself up and count the people who would notice if he was gone.

He was admitted into a mental hospital for 72 hours, some of the most memorable hours of his life. The diagnosis: anxiety and depression. People told him that he was too young to be there and that he did not belong there. Instead, they encouraged him to live his early adult years to the fullest.

They were right, but it took that shy kid three years to realize what it meant to be happy.

He met his first girlfriend, his best friend, his everything. He has a workout regiment, and unlike middle school when he didn’t eat much, he has a diet that he usually sticks to. He has close friends, goals and dreams — one day waking up and going to a dream job he has wanted since seventh grade.

He knows he is far from perfect just like everyone else.

It took him a couple of months to find himself after his stay at the mental hospital, and he knows that he is strong. Mental illness has taken enough lives — it almost took his. But he is not alone, and neither are you.

For as long as he could remember, one of us felt this nagging sense that he was the only person who existed and that everyone else around him wasn’t really “there.”

Coming from a Slavic background, where there is a lot of stigma surrounding any discussion of mental illness, he tended to keep all of his problems to himself, believing that his family could never understand his struggles.

It wasn’t until he rejoined The Signal after a year-long break from the paper that he was reminded unequivocally that he did not have to trudge along in school alone because there were other people who cared enough to listen or talk to him about the things that interest or concern him.

Knowing that some of his colleagues at The Signal have gone through similar or even worse experiences reminds him how valuable it is just to talk to someone about anything, even if it seems trivial or unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

She didn’t know if she would find her voice again. One of us grew up with a mom who always reared her to be confident and opinionated. When she reached high school, her self-esteem began to waver. She would try to talk to her mom about it, but her mom would talk about how absurd it was for her to feel that way.

During that time of self-doubt, she was sexually assaulted. She kept it to herself for about three months before eventually confiding in a group of friends. Soon after, she was called a liar. Of the people she confided in, one even went on to date the man. 

She finally opened up to her mom about it, and her mom taught her the art of forgiveness. She didn’t have to physically talk to him, she just had to mentally forgive him for her own sake. It took a few years, but she can say that she forgives him. She won’t let him have power over her anymore.

She’s always dealt with anxiety but the experience made her a more anxious person. But laughter helped bring her out of that dark hole. Joining The Signal helped her find her voice again. In an office where her opinion is valued, she’s not afraid to speak up anymore.

Now, she will not hesitate to tell someone that she is uncomfortable. She is cautious around grown men, but she has found men that she can trust since then. She’s in a relationship now, and she refuses to let the experience serve as an obstacle on her route to happiness.

Past experiences can affect you deeply. Living with a single mother of three, one of us stayed home many days to care for an infant and a 6-year-old while her mother worked. At the same time, she was in a relationship that was sexually abusive. She was only 12 years old.

In high school, she was diagnosed with depression, generalized anxiety disorder and mild OCD. She didn’t even realize she was underweight until a doctor weighed her at only 60 pounds, for her, it was just another thing wrong with her. 

She spent years on medication, trying to find what worked for her, treating her mental illnesses and gaining weight, all very stressful experiences. She often wondered, “What is wrong with me?”

In college, her depression subsided some as her anxiety and her OCD skyrocketed. She felt nothing she ever did was good enough. Everything in her life needed to be perfect. She needed to be perfect. 

She put so much on her plate, over 40 hours of work a week, 16 credit hours in school, The Signal, her family, a social life and planning for the future. 

But was there a future? With suicidal thoughts, she wasn’t sure. 

Why would she worry so much about a future when she didn’t want one? 

But she was wrong then and she is here to share that experience with the other editors — to share an experience with the world. She is still learning to balance anxiety, depression and OCD all at once. But she felt how valuable this opportunity is, to be able to share a painful experience and to heal a little more by hearing another’s.

The reason we’ve decided to share this isn’t revolutionary. 

You’ve probably heard it before: You aren’t alone. But it’s more true than anyone will ever know. Together, we found people in our own work environment who had been through the same experiences, or at least very similar ones.

And we hope that if you’ve been through it too, you have read this and will remind yourself every day, “I am not alone.”

Mental illness is real, and talking about it is important. Its discussion and the number of people who battle with it has been highlighted with our generation. But just because it’s been said before doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be said again: The stigma behind mental health and talking about it with others needs to go.

For us, hearing what others have been through — relating to some parts and finding how different we are from others — really reminded us that, no, we don’t all go through the same experiences, but we are still connected by the collective experience of experiencing it at all.