I’m struggling with my mental health but I’m not sure about how to open up about it.

Age: 19 

Hi friend.

Thank you for submitting. 

For starters, I want you to know that you are not alone. 

I know, it sounds cliché—but when we are struggling with our mental health it’s usually the first thing that we forget. We think that our struggles are unprecedented and that no one could possibly understand, so we often hold our most difficult thoughts and experiences close to our chest.

I personally used to have a tendency to isolate myself when I was going through something, thinking that I had to have it all figured out by the time I told my loved ones. I figured that if the difficult period was already sorted out, it would be easier to talk about. I soon learned that this was not a sustainable way of living.

I wrote an article some time ago about my struggle with anxiety, and how through going to therapy, I wanted to help my own mother deal with her struggles as well. The first step in both cases was admitting that you struggle sometimes. 

It was the scariest thing in the world for me, someone who makes a joke any time I have a serious emotion, to admit that I too have had my fair share of dark days. I’m grateful to no longer be living in that space, but I wouldn’t have gotten out if for starters, I didn’t at least admit it to myself. 

Coming from someone who has spent most of her life trying to convince people, and herself, that she has got it all together—you are not less than because you struggle sometimes. 

On social media we only ever see a highlight reel of each other’s lives and it’s easy to forget there’s a real person on the other side of the screen, experiencing things that would never make it to their IG. 

There were periods in my life where I struggled immensely with my mental health, and I was simultaneously trying to paint the picture of the bubbly, outgoing, “always happy” friend. This added an impossible pressure that began to mount over time. 

I had convinced myself that strength, resilience and perseverance were part and parcel of being human—that I would just have to grin and bear it.

But as I got older I learned a valuable lesson: managing other people’s reactions to your emotions is not your responsibility. 

If me feeling low, stressed out, or upset impacts the people around me to the point where they take my struggles personally, that isn’t something I can control.

The people who love and care about you also wouldn’t want you shouldering such heavy things entirely on your own with a forced smile on your face. 

In a society and culture where silent strength is often seen as a virtue, I urge you not to abandon yourself and to know that you are worthy of breaking free from being stuck in survival mode and keeping a brave face through everything.

Whether it’s a friend, family member, or a trusted professional, the second step once you admit it to yourself, is admitting it to someone who cares about you.

I want to start by saying therapy isn’t for everyone, and isn’t always accessible to some, but for me, it really helped me build a tool box to address some of the roots of my anxiety. It helped me see that there was a way out of what I was feeling and experiencing, and that I was not weak for needing help.

It also helped me get out of living in survival mode, and to learn to regulate my emotions and nervous system so that I could go from being on constant defense, to living and moving in softness. 

I’ve learned to look for the silver linings each day and lately, I’m just grateful to be here. 

You don’t need to remain closed off, or stay silent about all of the things weighing you down, and I assure you, talking about it will at the very least help lessen the load.

So I say all of this to say that while it may feel difficult to address the root of your mental health challenges, you by no means need to do it alone.

If you aren’t sure where to start and feel like you could benefit from talking to a professional, this South Asian therapist directory connects folks with South Asian therapists in their area.

If you too find yourself in need of advice, submit future questions and submissions anonymously for "Sh*t you can't ask your parents," here.

About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

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