OUR VOICES is a continuation of the “In Our Own Personals” program. Each month, we will select and discuss topics related to mental health. Through this, we hope to reveal individual experiences and commonalities. Keeping with a particular topic over the course of a month allows for a building-of-insight that will help us all garner a better understanding. It also provides us the opportunity to share our stories because we realize that a great way to eliminate stigma is to share our experiences and recognize similarities.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
We will post topics prior to each month with some information and prompts to get the creativity flowing. You can write us in any length or format, be it several sentences, an essay, research, critical opinion, or stream of consciousness. We simply want to hear from you!
February: Human Connection
March: Mind Over Mood
This month Our Voices will feature James Michael Grant in a narrative he authored, called “You Are Not Alone.”
7 years ago, I had my first panic attack, and after going into therapy, it became known that I had been suffering from depression, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder for quite some time. These disorders made my day-to-day life incredibly difficult and created heavy strain on friendships and other relationships. I was a student at Stony Brook University at the time and going to class was a horrifying concept – being forced to participate would immediately trigger an anxiety attack. DAgoraphobia would have me locked up in my dark room for weeks at a time. I would also be petrified to see anyone or to be seen by anyone. So for these reasons, obtaining my Bachelor’s degree was a 9-year battle. Now that I am finally finished, it feels as if some great journey is over – honestly having little to nothing to do with the education I received, but with the inner battle that I was fighting. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what can happen to the human mind when it goes astray, to the human soul when it is buried in pain, loneliness and constant emotional chaos. I feel as if I am over a hundred years-old.
I want anyone out there who has gone through, is currently going through, or may develop depressive disorders in the future, to know something: You are not alone. I’ve lost touch with many friends on account of these disorders, but no matter how long it’s been, if you need an open ear or shoulder to cry on, I am always here. Message me if you need to talk. I also want the people who suffer from these disorders to know that life does not have to be painful, it does not have to be lonely, there is a path forward and there are people who can help you. I just started seeing a new therapist and after only three sessions, I am beginning to feel the heavy weight of all this being lifted. I’m breathing. I’m reconnecting. I graduated college, finally. I’m getting back in shape. I’m approaching my acting/writing career with a whole new light and with positivity, trust, and faith in myself.
Many people with depressive disorders don’t like to talk about it, some may not even know they have one because they’ve buried the truth for so long. Trust me, I know how that feels. I know how it feels to have people in your life who don’t take the emotional struggles you go through seriously, because they think depression and anxiety are just excuses or aren’t really even that bad. But they are. It’s not living. It’s dying. It’s not loving. It’s constant worry that you don’t deserve love, or you’re too inadequate to experience love. It’s loneliness and it’s pain and it needs to be treated just like any physical condition you may have.
So once again:You are not alone. You do not have to accept this as the only reality. You can heal. You can grow. And you can contact me whenever you want to talk and get it all out. I never thought I’d hold my own degree. I didn’t know that I had it in me. It’s more than a graduation of college, it’s a graduation of self, it’s the full realization of how important it is to take care of yourself and to love yourself, so that you can be there for and with others. I am here.
Dr. Brené Brown, in an interview published by Forbes.com on September 12, 2017, responded to a question regarding the importance of true belonging,
We’re in a spiritual crisis, the key to building a true belonging practice is maintaining our belief in inextricable human connection. That connection — the spirit that flows between us and every other human in the world – is not something that can be broken; however, our belief in the connection is constantly tested and repeatedly severed. When our belief that there’s something greater than us, something rooted in love and compassion, breaks, we are more likely to retreat to our bunkers, to hate from afar, to tolerate bullshit and to dehumanize others.(1)
Her research has revealed much about the benefits for our mental health of human connection and interaction. Other research has indicated that a lack of social connectedness can be detrimental to health and cause cardiovascular problems, autonomic dysregulation, delayed healing, and psychological conditions.(2)
Given the great importance of human connection, please join us in celebrating our commonalities and sharing our stories. Make an effort this month to be more present in our interactions and connect with those around us. So often we allow insecurities and perspectives to tell us that we are incapable of connection and we shut down or isolate, but it’s during those times we need to reach out and care for ourselves and those around us. As we practice compassion with others, remember to practice it with ourselves.
They always used to say, “You can’t love another until you learn to love yourself.” I’m here to challenge that and say that you can love another without loving yourself, but it sure makes the love deeper and more true if you can love yourself, as well. So remember, our relationship with ourselves is also incredibly important. Make sure to connect with yourself this month, too.