One of the topics that struck me the most in class the last few weeks was when we talked about mental illness and the people whose loved ones have mental illness. When people talk about mental illness, whether it be their own or just as a general topic, it’s hardly mentioned how other people are affected by someone’s mental illness. Yes the focus should be on the person who it working through this ordeal but it can also affect the others around.
I was around 19 when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I was halfway through my first year of college. It was a challenging time for me and I had never felt something like this in my life. Every day I would wake up feeling like a zombie and feel sudden waves of sadness and anxiety. I would have multiple breakdowns a day that involved sobbing and trying to catch my breath. It felt like my chest was in vise and I couldn’t slow my heart down. These attacks would happen at any time whether I was in my dorm room, at the dining hall, or in class. Normally when these attacks would happen I would pick up my phone and call my mom. I’ve always been close with her and knew she would pick up always.
But even though I was focused on me during my depression and anxiety I knew it was affecting the people around me. One day not that long ago I asked my mom how she felt during my depression. She told me that she hated what was happening to me. She said that when her phone would ring at work and she saw my name she had to prepare herself for what was going to happen on the other end of that call. She told me that the most frustrating part was not being able to be there in person for me, to help me through my attacks and help me calm down. I went to school my freshmen year of college in Pennsylvania and it was about an hour’s drive to campus. She told me she never hated when I called, she hated the illness that had affected my daily life.
Not only my family, but my friends were affected as well. They had a hard time wrapping their head around what was happening to me. One day I had a talk with them about what was happening and how I felt, thinking that they were annoyed with me and that they felt it was taxing to be my friend when I was in this state. They told me that that wasn’t the case. They said they loved me, wanted to see me happy and healthy, and that they were frustrated with themselves because they didn’t know what to do to help me or what to say to reassure me. Since then I’ve been open with them about my mental health. I think it’s important to remember that family and friends are also affected by mental illness.