So, if you’ve gone on social media recently you’ve probably seen people posting pictures of themselves 10 years ago and now. And even though there is nothing remotely challenging about that, they are calling it the 10 year challenge. Because apparently everything that goes viral has to be a challenge. But it led me to think about a 10 year mental health challenge.
10 years ago I was finishing my senior year of college. At the time I hadn’t started seeing anyone about my mental health issues, which would frequently cause bouts of insomnia. I felt outside of my group of friends at all times, like I were lesser, more insubstantial than them. I had only vague and unrealistic expectations about the future because I spent most days just trying to get from one insomnia filled night to the next. I think I understood something wasn’t right about this way of being, but I hadn’t yet realized that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. And I felt like I was the only one who felt like that.
Now I see a therapist regularly about my mental health issues. I am mindful of the fact that they exist. I am mindful about the limitations they create. I am mindful that I am going to have bad days with depression and that is okay. The darkness of depression will pass. I am open about my issues. I journal, though not as much as I should. I meditate, again not as much as I should. On the whole, my mental health has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 10 years.
But here is the truly dark and insidious thing about mental health struggles: If I simply posted a photo of myself 10 years ago compared with today, you wouldn’t see much change. My hair back then was shorter, I wear glasses now and have a beard, but both pictures would see me smiling and living my life, the whole time hiding my struggle, which is why I decided to write this instead of posting pictures.
At the end of the day, the battle of mental health is a war you wage with yourself. The victories and defeats are measured against who you were 10 days ago, 10 months ago, 10 years ago, etc. I am proud of my 10 year challenge, prouder than any photo can show. I hope you are too. But if you’re not, that’s okay. The story isn’t over.