I’m pretty lucky when it comes to dealing with anxiety, because anxiety and I have a fairly straightforward relationship.
Whenever I think I’m doing marginally okay, or feeling particularly productive, anxiety pops into my brain and quickly takes the wheel. It doesn’t matter how much I have achieved in my short 24 years of existence, anxiety has this trick that makes those achievements seem insignificant—it likes to remind me that I’m only one of approximately 6 billion humans on a planet floating in a vacuum of infinite space as we rotate around a huge ball of gas that will eventually explode … and that my accomplishments probably pale in comparison to everyone else.
I also know my anxiety becomes weak around kittens. Take that, crippling existentialism.
My point isn’t to send you into a spiral of hopelessness, however; describing my relationship with my anxiety used to be difficult, but it’s much easier knowing I’m not alone. It likes to isolate me from others and cut me off from the very actions that keep me somewhat healthy, which apparently includes writing for the Internet.
Thanks to the World Wide Web, the days of believing we are even remotely unique are over; people are finding spaces to share their issues and meet others with similar issues. Since May 1st was Mental Health Awareness Day, and May is Mental Health Month, you might be reading other exceptionally personal posts on Facebook or Twitter from friends and family members.
This event is becoming a vehicle for social media users to open up about their mental status, in an effort to decrease stigma about mental illness on an Internet-wide scale. Once you put it in writing on the web, after all, it’s there for good—so for those who might call “Slacktivism!”just remember that that people living with mental illness are less likely to:
be in a steady, long-term relationship
live in decent housing
- be socially included in mainstream society.
Not to be a total bummer, but many of these problems are a result of stigma about mental illness, and the lack of understanding discourages people from openly talking about their problems out of fear. It’s a feedback loop that causes unnecessary pain and preventable deaths.
Anxiety kryptonite, GO!
So, when Mental Health Awareness Month cropped up, I was a little excited (read: anxiously waiting) to see the results. Thanks to social media, I have already learned more about friends and acquaintances than I ever expected—now, instead of a million pictures of my friends’ cats (an epidemic I greatly contribute to), I am also seeing real discussion about mental illness and recognition that a label does not make the person.
Mental Health Awareness Month reminds me that I’m not alone, which fulfills the whole purpose of this huge digital web of wires and electricity–we are more connected than ever before, and through blog posts or hashtags, we can spread the world about #MentalHealthAwareness.
Or you can just keep following Rihanna tweets. Your call.
P.S. Here’s a list for mental health resources, hotlines, and educational materials; this is not a complete list, so if you know any other helpful links, share it! You wouldn’t be the first person to use them, and hopefully you won’t be the last.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
American Psychiatric Associate Answer Center
The Trevor Project
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Mental Health Foundation
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
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