People who suffer from mental illness are more than just the "sad" or "anti-social" stereotypes. There is no face of mental illness -- your friend might be depressed, a parent or even yourself.
In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week, MTV News is highlighting what mental illness really looks like for teens and young adults, including what they wish people knew and how they got through tough times. Share your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and let's #changetheconversation.
By Cody, 22
Growing up, I always knew I was different from all the other kids. I never seemed to fit in and was always self-conscious about myself. This caused an early case of anxiety. Not many kids who are in fourth and fifth grade suffer from migraines so bad that they make you throw up. I was constantly a nervous wreck. This was because I was gay, which is something I did not to comprehend until I was in junior high. It was something that I did not come to accept until I was 21 years old.
I was your average high school guy. The kid who played all the sports and went to prom. I hid it all very well. I thought maybe this was just a phase and it would all pass soon. It wasn’t until about my freshman year of college that I just had to face the fact that I was gay and there was nothing I could do about it. It is NOT something you choose. Why would I choose something that is basically taboo?
I kept to myself most of the time and never had a girlfriend. If someone were to ask if I had a girlfriend, I would always just shrug it off and say no. In the back of my mind, I thought I would never come out and I'd just be single and miserable my whole life. It got to a point where I could not hide it any longer. I first came out to one of my best friends. She was more than accepting and it was a big relief off my shoulders. I decided to come out to my parents a few months later. They were initially shocked, as any parent would be. They wanted me to basically stay in the closet until my little brother graduated high school, in hopes of saving him from any teasing from classmates. This hurt -- I just put everything out on the line and came out and basically got told to go back in the closet.
This caused me major self-esteem issues. I was a junior in college at the time. I started working at a gym in hopes of getting in shape and being able to feel better about myself. It started out all healthy and normal. People started to notice my results and how I lost some weight and was looking fairly decent. I took this as motivation to keep going and slowly started cutting out meals and working out harder and harder every day. It got to the point where I would have a bag of steamed vegetables and that would be it all day.
As more and more people mentioned my weight and how I am looking really skinny, this brought me more motivation. I liked hearing these things -- it was a trigger for me. I did not have control of who I was, but I could control what I looked like. I had constant anxiety and depression. My eating disorder got to the point where my family finally intervened and it was either go to treatment or move home. During all of this I was living by myself. In hopes of finishing college I chose to move home. I starting seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist in hopes of getting down to the core of all my problems and being able to accept myself for who I really am. Moving home was tough because the temptation of food was everywhere. When living by myself I never had any food in my apartment so there would be no temptation. This caused an overwhelming feeling of uncontrollability. Yet the more people found out about me being gay, the more I got a little more comfortable with myself.
It was an amazing feeling not having to hide who I have been for so many years. I graduated from college in July of 2015 with a bachelor’s of science in business administration. I still struggle daily with food and exercise, but I just take my life day by day. I feel I didn’t go through this struggle for no reason. If I can help just one kid who is going through hard times, my life will be complete. Mental illnesses can be deadly and I believe more spending needs to go to these causes. Eating disorders are a horrible thing and something needs to be done about it. I will not stop until this happens.
These are personal stories and only reflect the experiences of the individuals sharing them.
If you or someone you know is dealing with mental illness, there are ways to get help. Find resources, tips, and immediate help at Half of Us, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.