I Didn’t Think I Was Qualified to Write About Mental Illness

Gillian Sisley

Finding the confidence to put my voice into the conversation is a work in progress.

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Photo by Eutah Mizushima on Unsplash

I have anxiety, which I developed following a traumatic event in my life.

My anxiety, at times, has led to panic attacks and paranoia.

However, I have never been formally diagnosed by a certified medical professional, because I’ve never gone in for an appointment to be diagnosed.

Most often, my anxiety is quietly creeping beneath the surface, like little whispers underneath a sheet of water.

And that’s the tricky thing about mental illness it actively works to convince you that you’re not struggling enough or aren’t “qualified” enough to seek help and speak your truth openly.

I don’t have the guts to speak out often in my personal life about my struggles. The most vocal I’ve been in my life about my mental illness struggles has actually been on this platform.

I know people who can relate (and maybe you can too) to not necessarily feeling comfortable talking about their mental illness publicly.

We probably know someone who has it worse than us.

For me, there’s are several people in my life who suffer from severe mental illness.

One in particular really openly struggles. It gets really bad. She goes through some really awful seasons. She has to quit her job sometimes because it cripples her so much.

It’s become a massive part of her identity, and how she defines herself.

I never felt it was appropriate for me to step into that space and talk openly about my own mental health, especially not with her, in light of her battle being far more difficult than mine.

Because that was her space and her struggle.

It felt like there wasn’t enough room in that space for both of us. Or I felt that I would be resented if I decided to step into that space with intention and openness.

I’ve tried a few times to relate to her anxiety with my own, pointing out that I understood a bit of how she felt because I too struggled with it. She is clinically diagnosed with mental illness, I am not.

My attempts to relate and share my story were never well-received.

I would walk away feeling like I wasn’t qualified enough to talk about mental health, because clearly mine was only a drop in the barrel of what she was dealing with.

There’s always going to be someone else out there who has it harder than you. There’s always going to be someone else who will scoff and roll their eyes when you try to open up.

And as I slowly build my confidence to interject into the mental health conversation, I am realizing something more and more: there is enough space in the world for us all come forward and share what we’re dealing with. The more openly we talk about mental illness, the more we can break the stigma.

It’s not a competition of who is struggling more. There is no race to be won by claiming you have it worse off than anyone else.

We may not always feel like we’re a top priority.

But we are.

We ALL deserve to feel healthy, and be capable of achieving the best quality of life possible.

There are too many emotions at play.

If there’s an emotion swimming around that I don’t understand, or something is just generally off, I can usually process for some time and eventually reach a conclusion or find an answer for the root cause of that rogue emotion.

The anxiety and paranoia I experienced following my sexual assault were different.

There was no answer. There was no solution. It was just there, it would rear it’s ugly head now and again, and I felt so helplessly out of control because of it.

These days it’s a little milder, but it’s still there.

I didn’t do anything to warrant the trauma I now live with. The one responsible is the one who violated me — and yet here I am… paying the price for his actions.

And while it feels incomprehensibly unfair, I’m not letting that injustice hold me back from becoming the best version of me I can be.

Mental illness doesn’t make us broken. But it can make striving for our best quality of life far more difficult.

We may opt-out of seeking help because we think, “It’s not that bad. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone”.

Before I talked to anyone about my past trauma, I didn’t have a name for these awful feelings inside of me, so I just called them the “leftover destruction of another person’s misplaced sense of entitlement over my body”.

But then I had my worst panic attack to date, and it really scared me.

I finally opened up to my parents about how I had been struggling, and they connected me with a professional counsellor.

Even if I thought it “wasn’t that bad”, I still wanted to do all that I could to not let these demons control and manipulate me for the rest of my life. I wanted my best quality of life back.

We may not always be in control, but we will sure as hell fight our hardest to keep the demons at bay and achieve as much happiness as is humanly possible for us.

My (now former) therapist worked with me for several sessions to devise a plan for coping skills in case a panic attack came on again, and once that work was done, there wasn’t much else to do, so I continued on with my life.

Final word.

While I don’t believe PTSD applies as much to me anymore, there is certainly remaining anxiety, which I understand may never leave me.

And that sucks, but it is what it is.

It’s not going to stop me from pursuing my best life possible.

And slowly, but surely, I’m becoming more and more vocal about my struggles, my past trauma and how all of that history looks in my life today.

Funny how it feels easier to write a personal essay accessible to hundreds upon thousands (possibly millions?) of people on the internet than it does to talk to those in my life whom I closest to about it.

Mental illness is one tricky little f*cker.

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Online solopreneur. Tea drinker. Committed optimist. I write about trending news, viral Reddit content, and anything else that tickles my fancy.

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