Michal Walther
June 28, 2016 10:55 am
Getty / Bloom Productions

I used to think of mental illness as a curse; I thought that being mentally ill was for weirdos, and I was their leader. I envied those who couldn’t comprehend the kind of hopelessness I felt when going through a deep season of depression. I envied those who could eat without counting calories or feeling terrified of gaining weight. I envied those who didn’t have to complete certain rituals, and I envied those who asked me what having an anxiety attack felt like. I kept asking, Why me?

It wasn’t until I had my first “me too” moment with a friend that I began to think of what I’ve gone through as, in some aspects, an advantage. In a moment of vulnerability, I decided to show my now best friend the scars I had from self-harm. I had no idea how she’d respond because we didn’t know all that much about one another. Much much to my surprise though, she said, “We have the same scars.” Although our scars originated out of pain, it was such a beautiful moment for us both because we realized that we weren’t alone in our suffering. For years, I felt like I was an oddity, and I know she did, too. I hadn’t known anyone else who experienced what I had. In that moment, I felt as if there was hope after all.

Showing even the smallest amount of vulnerability can make way for great things. Telling my friend gave me the courage to speak more boldly about my struggles — to her, and to others. I’m no longer afraid to speak up when I’m anxious or depressed; I’m able to ask for encouragement when I feel the need to lose unnecessary weight, and most importantly, I no longer feel ashamed. I don’t see my struggles as a curse because through them, I’ve gained new insight. I’ve gained empathy, and I’ve gained hope.

We’ve made so much progress in lessening the stigma surrounding mental illness; however, we still have a way to go. The only way to combat the stigma is through fostering healthy conversations with one another and creating safe spaces to voice our problems.

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