I’m seventeen years old, and I’ve had anxiety and depression all my life. Throughout my mental health journey over the years, I’ve felt like I wasn’t being heard, I’ve felt misunderstood, not cared for. I’ve felt invisible, like a ghost. I’ve felt ignored. I’ve told the wrong people very personal things about myself regarding my mental health because I needed someone to just truly hear me. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone else. I felt very alone. I was very confused, because for no reason, I would feel sad. Getting out of bed, taking care of myself, getting through the day, all of those things were a struggle for me. Constantly worrying all the time about the little things, panic/anxiety attacks occurring often, just living in constant fear are things that people (including myself) with a chronic anxiety disorder go through. It’s tough.

Countless times, I’ve been told the following: “You have no reason to be sad.” “Just be happy.” “Do you even try to change your circumstances?” “You need to be more grateful, there are people out here struggling worse than you.” “You’re not depressed, you’re just lazy.” I could go on and on for hours. And everytime someone would tell me these things, I would feel worse about myself and what I was going through. I was gaslighted by many people. I felt guilty for having depression and anxiety. I felt like such a burden to everyone. I thought that feeling sad and anxious all the time wasn’t okay at all.

I would always burn myself out and exhaust myself mentally, constantly researching how to manage anxiety and depression, looking at outside sources for validation, just looking for a “quick fix.” I wanted to feel better immediately. And while what tips I researched and cultivated into my life did make me feel a bit better, it was temporary. Everytime I tried to improve my life, I thought there was a certain way to do it. I thought I had to act a certain way, live a certain way, do things a certain way. When I didn’t live up to these expectations, I gave up. I thought I had failed, in my life, in my journey, everything.

But in reality, I didn’t fail at anything.

I was just learning and growing. I let the Internet and social media think for me and decide what I should do and how I should be living, when I wasn’t thinking about those things for myself. I always listened to what people had to say, telling me what I should or shouldn’t do, telling me what I should or shouldn’t say. I gave my power and energy to them, and my own power and my own light was diminished in the process. My mental health declined in the process as well.

But now that I’m getting older, I’m realizing that my power, my light, and my strength all comes from within. I continue to learn, grow, and heal on my mental health journey, one that is lifelong and never ending. It brings me comfort knowing that I am never alone in my mental health struggles.

One of the crucial things I have learned in my life is that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. It’s very important that we prioritize our mental health, because our mental wellbeing matters more than anything.

If you’re going through any type of mental health struggles right now, just know that I see you. I hear you. I am here for you. You, and I cannot stress this enough, are NEVER alone.

It’s okay to be struggling with a mental illness. It’s okay to talk to someone. It’s okay to get help. It’s okay to be vulnerable, to not be okay, to cry, to have bad days, to be anxious, to be sad, all of these things are OKAY. I promise you. If you haven’t gotten out of bed today or haven’t been able to take care of yourself, it’s OKAY. If you feel like you haven’t made any progress in your mental health journey – trust me, you have.

Never feel ashamed or embarrassed about what you’re going through. You are allowed to be vulnerable, vulnerability shows your strength. You are allowed to feel what you feel, to have emotions and feel sad, because you are human.

We’re all gonna have our bad days. Healing is never linear. It is lifelong. Growth and change is lifelong as well. Don’t think you have to be or live a certain way to heal. Heal in your own way on your own time. Keep finding and discovering what works best for you. Show yourself love and compassion as much as possible, even when things get hard. Be very gentle and patient with yourself. You deserve to give yourself love. Love starts from within us.

I know how hard it is to rewire your gloomy thoughts into positive ones. I know how difficult it is to dig yourself out of a harming mindset caused by your mental illness. It takes time to rewire your brain so don’t be too hard on yourself. And you don’t have to be alone in your journey. Talk to someone you trust, look into therapy. It’s okay to get help for your mental disorder. I promise it is. You deserve to feel better.

Let’s continue breaking the stigma of mental health. Let’s continue openly talking about mental health more. Let’s grow together. Let’s inspire one another. Let’s be here for one another. We deserve to be seen and have our voices heard. Our mental health will be forever important.

We are all in this together.