Has life ever knocked you so hard off your feet you fear you may never get back up again? I’m sure it’s happened to you at least once in your life. Honestly, it’s probably happened more than once as life likes to throw us some powerful right hooks when it has the chance. I, for one, have some pretty good bruises to show from the beating I’ve taken in just the last year alone. From battling identity theft issues to the loss of a loved one to managing the stressors of being a postdoctoral researcher, things have been rough. They’ve also taken a huge toll on my mental health, which is to be expected, even if you’re a positive person 90 percent of the time. And, you know what? That’s okay. Your feelings are valid, whether there during times of happiness or times of struggle. However, it’s during these times that we need to evaluate where we are mentally so we can get the help we need, even if it’s difficult.
The stigma around mental health is slowly fading, but we as a society have a long way to go before it’s completely eradicated. Currently, one in four people will struggle with at least one mental illness in their lifetime. For me, its been anxiety and depression. While I’ve struggled with both since my teens, my circumstances over the past year sent them to new heights. I had days where even getting out of bed to shower felt like an extreme chore. Had it not been for the support of my family and friends, I’d still be knocked down from life’s beating. I also appreciate the support I continually receive from the wonderful people of PoetsIN, a creative mental health charity that helps people heal through the power of words. I’ve gained a group of friends that feel like family who’ve helped me work my way through the fog on more than one occasion. That’s something I think everyone needs and I highly recommend PoetsIn as a starting point.
If you take anything from this today, I hope it’s the knowledge that you aren’t alone. People may tell you that you just need to fix your attitude to get through your current fight, but know you’re not bound to their expectations. It’s okay to work through your emotions and your situation. It’s okay to reach out and find someone to work through your situation with, whether it be a professional or someone close to you. There is no shame in needing help and it most certainly doesn’t make you weak. I also want to encourage you to consider stepping away from situations or pursuits that might be affecting your mental health negatively. Taking a break from something or walking away from a situation can give us time to clear our heads so that we might assess our next step forward more clearly. For me, that’s meant putting my Ph.D. pursuit on hold for a while. It’s not an easy decision but I can already feel the weight that’s been sitting on my chest begin to lighten.
While the fight may be a long and hard one, I believe in your ability to make it through. You aren’t alone and I’m rooting for you as you make the decision to get up one more time. Just know that, like the sun, you will rise again.