As to the point of all this, I’m starting a fundraiser. I’ve done a lot of research on mental health charities and have selected The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation as the charity that I would like to donate to. They are a nonprofit that invests 100% of all donations towards grants that fund research into the causes and treatment of depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, autism, bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD, and OCD.
I will be pledging $500 of my own money to them, and my parents have agreed to match that. With the help of anyone reading this, I would like to double that donation. That can be done at the GoFundMe link in this post. Your donation will go directly to them through this link. I don’t care if you can only contribute $1 towards the extra $1,000, anything helps. If you can’t donate anything, then what I ask is that you take some time to familiarize yourself with mental illnesses and their signs. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation has a lot of helpful literature on their website, as do other similar mental health charities.
For reasons that to this day I still don’t understand, the state of my mental health took a sharp nosedive when I started college in the fall of 2010. If I’m being honest with myself I can probably point to signs that started appearing towards the end of high school, but those were things I mostly brushed off as immaturity. As I progressed through college, it became apparent to me that I had real mental health issues. I was selfish towards people who cared about me. I was angry at people for no reason. I realized just how deep and significant these problems were my senior year. Once I realized it, I did the worst thing I could have done. I did nothing. I was scared, I was ashamed, and I couldn’t bring myself to admit to anyone that I had a problem. The stigma associated with mental health problems was all too prominent in my mind and it stopped me from getting the help I so desperately needed.
In late 2014 and early 2015, my mental health deteriorated further. It continued along steadily for most of that year until the earlier parts of 2016. My mental state again deteriorated significantly, until the summer of 2016 where the bottom fell out and I reached the lowest point of my existence. That period of time in my life was the darkest time that I’ve ever gone through in regards to my mental health and was the first time I actually felt close to taking my own life. Those thoughts terrified me and caused me to deeply think and reflect about the people in my life and the life that I have. For the first time in my life, I actually spoke to someone (not a professional, a friend) about what I was going through. And just like that, around the fall of 2016, all my issues had mostly resolved. Around that time I went through an event that in any of the previous 6 years would have emotionally crippled me for weeks or months, as it had so many times before. It wasn’t like I felt nothing, which would have scared me more. I was certainly sad. But I was in control. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I was in control of my emotions. I didn’t go into a pit that I felt like I couldn’t climb out of. I was able to deal with it. As quickly as depression had washed over me like a wave and stayed with me for years, it was gone just as quickly for essentially no reason.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues don’t make sense or follow rules. If they did, something that had affected me for so long wouldn’t have just resolved as it had. They don’t discriminate about who they affect, they don’t need to happen for a reason, they can last for as long or as short as they feel, and the issues they cause can be miniscule or life-changing. They don’t show or manifest themselves in set ways. Most people who have met me probably have never noticed anything wrong with me; I did a good job of hiding it in general and also hid behind a façade of constantly making jokes and wanting to make people laugh. At my lowest points, the only thing that could bring me any happiness at all was making people laugh.
My depression caused me to act in ways that I deeply regret because of how my actions affected others. I negatively impacted many friendships and relationships along the way because I could never bring myself to get help. In truth, most of the people who experienced me at my worst have removed themselves from my life because of how I acted. I always thought of myself as a good person who didn’t want to hurt others, but at times it felt like I was trapped inside my own body. Watching me do things that hurt others all the while wondering why I was doing them when I never wanted to. While I never brought myself close to suicide, the thoughts were there the whole time. It became almost like the thought of winning the lottery. People know they’re not going to win the lottery, but if they did it would fix all of their issues. Similarly while I never could have brought myself to end my own life, sometimes it seemed like the only way I could fix all of my problems.
In late 2015, a friend of mine from college did take his own life. One of the kindest people I’ve ever met was gone. I had noticed signs in the way he acted and the way he reached out to me on several occasions shortly beforehand, but in the same way I did nothing for myself, I did nothing. Maybe because I always saw him as a kind, happy person, and I could never believe that he was going through something that would lead to him taking his own life. I have so many memories of his kindness, like when he saw me waiting at a bus stop at school during the winter and turned his car around to pick me up and drive me to directly to my class. He’d do things like that for anyone he considered a friend. And unfortunately, all those wonderful things I remember about him can only ever be memories now because he’s no longer here.
As for how I’m doing today, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. 2017 was an amazing year. I’ve grown to appreciate the people I have and meet infinitely more. I love the life that I live and am so grateful for everything that I get to experience. That happiness has made me able to share my story and experiences with others more openly. I’ve talked to a few people here and there, and finally this morning I was able to tell my parents everything. The support the friends and family I’ve told has been incredible and has made me want to do something more than just tell my story.
Inaction and silence are the two things that I regret the most about how I’ve handled my journey. I did nothing for myself for so long and it caused significant harm to myself and others. A part of me will always feel that if I had done something for my friend when he needed it the most and was reaching out, maybe he would still be here brightening up the world as he had when he was alive. But those are things that I can’t dwell on, because the past is set in stone. What I can do, however, is use my experiences to make things better for those who are currently struggling or may struggle in the future.
If you are experiencing anything that you might even think be a mental health issue then please seek help. Mental health issues affect a much more significant portion of the population than anyone wants to acknowledge and there is no shame whatsoever in getting help. I lost a lot of years because I didn’t, many people have lost their lives because they haven’t, and it rests on our society to end the stigma. Even if you just may need someone to talk to, I’m willing to listen to your experiences (though I’m obviously not a trained medical professional in any sense of the word and I cannot be a substitute for actual help). And if you see a friend’s behavior change and you think they might be going through a rough time or suffering from mental illness, reach out and help them. It may be the most difficult conversation you’ve ever had with someone, but you may end up being what saves them if they truly are struggling.
- Ashley Harding
- Nick Mansouri
- Greg Muha
- Stephen Sims
- Emily Walter
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