People have different experiences, so stop negating the things you go through because you think “it could be worse”.
As more people begin to normalize conversations surrounding mental health, it can be easy to put things into boxes. Anxiety looks like one thing, depression looks like another, and so on, and so forth. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to understand the hardships others deal with, that we unintentionally downplay the things we feel.
We say things like, “What I’m dealing with isn’t as bad as what they go through,” or “Yeah I’ve been feeling really bad lately, but it could be worse.” But have you ever stopped to think about whether it actually has to?
As someone who deals with depression and anxiety, I’ve become incredibly vocal about my ongoing battle, both to lend a voice of advocacy and so I can create a safe environment to talk about how I feel. I’ve grown to trust and depend on my friends, and in turn they’ve seen my highs and lows.
They’ve witnessed moments where I went from a calm headspace to a severe anxiety attack in a span of two minutes, they’ve seen me fighting to leave my bed or just return their messages, and they’ve been there to help in any way they can.
As thankful as I am to the respect and support they’ve given me, I’ve realized it’s important to keep the conversation going on both ends.
I was recently on a drive with one of my best friends. We talked about everything from what we wanted for dinner, to how thicc (yes with two c's) the moon looked, when they offhandedly mentioned how much they’d been crying again. Though the sentiment wasn’t a new one, they always had a reason. Sometimes it was school, sometimes it was family drama, and other times they just felt sad. However, this time when they mentioned it, they said on occasion the "sadness" would happen randomly. Whether it was intentional or not, this was the first time they’d said that. There was something about them referring to it as random that just felt off, or to put it more accurately, there was something familiar.
With their permission, I asked them what they felt when they had these moments. Their instinct was to talk about their emotional state further, but I clarified that I meant physically. Suddenly, they were filled with confusion and hesitance.
“It gets kinda hard to breathe,” they finally said, “and my heart beats kinda fast.”
I’m not a doctor, or a therapist, and I don’t claim to be. I made sure they knew that before I said, “I think you might have anxiety.”
I didn’t say those words carelessly. The small signs they’d shown me were similar to the ones I missed in myself; back when my anxiety was practically nonexistent, before it transformed into the monster it is now. I knew enough about their life, outside of this article, to know that the statement wasn’t coming completely out of left field (even if it turned out to be wrong).
Their next words were along the lines of: “I don’t think so because I know how hard things are for you and what I feel is never like that.”
Okay, that was true. What they go through isn’t nearly to the same extent as what I deal with, but that’s not the fucking point.
Mental health, like many other things, is a spectrum, and there are levels to everything. Yes, I have severe anxiety, but that doesn’t mean what I go through is the poster image for all anxiety. The same goes for depression, and any other mental “illness”. Just because I fight something on a different level, doesn’t mean they don’t have their own battles that are valid, and deserve just as much care and support as mine.
It doesn’t have to be worse, and they don’t need to share my pain. Shit is relative. I made sure I told them that.
I recommended they bring this up to their doctor the next time they went, and see what they have to say on the matter. Though I wouldn’t be able to help in regards to medical treatment or a proper diagnosis, I decided the best thing I could do, is share things that help me.
I told them about techniques I used, apps that helped, and more importantly, I reminded them that I was there. The same support they had given me was one I knew I needed to return, even if it turned out they were fine.
I could tell they were still hesitant, but I knew we both felt better with the shared information, the unspoken “just in case” was mutual.
The topic of mental health goes both ways, regardless of what we’re all going through. It’s important that we check on our friends, but it’s also important to check on ourselves.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to talk to the people who have your back.
Trust your journey,