Outreach Coordinator, WhiteFlag
The word “screened” can be thought of in many different outlets. National Depression Screening Day was last week, and that sparked me to do some self-reflection on my own screening. I was sought out and screened for a purpose: To tell my story. To help others heal in a way I had never been helped. Jonny, the founder of WhiteFlag, screened my personal blog, related to my story, and knew I’d spend the rest of my life fighting for others just like me- battling in silence with a mental illness. Here I am today, a suicide attempt survivor, an extremely passionate mental health advocate, and WhiteFlag’s Outreach Coordinator.
However, when you think of getting a screening, the first thing that comes to mind for many is being screened for a medical condition. We never take the time to consider that you can be screened for a mental illness, as well. We rarely sit down and think that our mental health should take priority, just like our physical health does, in our everyday lives. Many of us don’t take into consideration that the downfall in our physical health can be a detrimental downfall in our mental health- and vice versa. It’s time to educate ourselves. It’s time to reach out for help. It’s time to put you first. Now.
Personally, for me, my depression has been a silent killer. I have constantly hidden my depression with a “positivity mask,” making it near impossible for loved ones, let alone strangers, to see my depression. As someone who, on paper, “had it all,” I couldn’t justify why I was forever feeling like a dark cloud was above me; engulfing any happy thoughts or moments throughout my day. My depression was continually snapping me back into this dark place that began to feel normal; almost comfortable. To be extremely honest, I didn't even know you could get screened for depression. I assumed that you could only get screened for cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, and those types of things- never a mental illness. I truly thought I was going to suffer in silence forever.
If I had taken the time to accept that self harming and this desire I had to “not exist” anymore was not normal behavior, my depression could have been channeled in a productive way at a much younger age. It wasn’t until I accepted that my thoughts were beyond my control, that I went and saw a therapist. It took months and numerous phone calls to find one that was right for me. The unfortunate reality of finding a therapist is it can be trial and error- but, the benefit is that this trial and error process can lead to one of the most positive and beneficial choices you could have ever made for yourself and your health. I was finally able to sit in the warm, homey office and let myself be vulnerable. Unbeknownst to me, my therapist screened me for a realm of mental illnesses. My results? Major Depression Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Whoa. I spent years battling these unknown illnesses alone, in silence, and now they all finally had a name.
It was not until my screenings that I took action in surrendering to my mental illnesses. It was not until that moment that I realized it’s okay to not be okay. It was not until that moment that I knew my mental illnesses were bigger than me. It was not until that moment with my therapist that I acknowledged I was finally going to get the help I so desperately needed. I spent years questioning my thoughts, my self-worth, and my mental illnesses, and now I finally felt a sigh of relief.
It has been a long journey; a journey that I am continuing on every day. But I have made a commitment to myself to address my mental health and my needs. I have made a commitment to sharing my story, understanding what tools I need in my mental health toolbox to battle this in the strongest way possible, each and every day. Seeking connections, taking the time to be screened for my struggles, and knowing that this is not the silent suffering I thought it had to be.
It is time to put your mental health first. It is time to push it to the forefront of your mind and know that it is okay to not be okay. It is time to put you first. It is time to get help. Do not wait until you let the dark cloud engulfs you like I did- seek help NOW. Be vulnerable. Screening for depression can be another tool in your toolbox, just like WhiteFlag.
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