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 Emily, 23*
I've learned that a mental illness is not something that you can find a simple "cure" to. A mental illness, like depression, is not something that someone experiences when they have one bad day. For my boyfriend, he says that most of the time, he feels numb to any emotion, even happiness.
He sees himself as a loser. An outcast.
His anxieties and self-doubt make it extremely difficult for him to go throughout the day without an emotional breakdown, whether it be at home or at school. He says that his friends and people at school just see him as a quiet person, but if only they knew. It really frustrates him when his family tries to help him, because they just relate his situation back to their own “bad day.” It is much more than that. He feels as though no one understands him or what he’s going through.
I want more than anything for him to be happy in life -- to make him see that he is worth so much more than what he believes.
His battle with depression has shown me his strength and resilience. While he says he often feels worthless and empty, he keeps pushing to find happiness. He has gradually found that happiness by doing what he loves: art. He continues to pursue his passion, with words of encouragement from me each day. That is what helps him get through the day.
My boyfriend's struggles have also taught me a deeper meaning of love. For the seven years we have been together, we have supported each other through all of the ups and downs.
The hardest thing is knowing that your loved one is hurting, and feeling as though there is nothing you can do to help them. I have had to keep reminding myself that healing takes time, but my boyfriend will get better. What makes me happiest is when I can cheer him up -- even for just a few minutes.
I’ve tried encouraging him to seek professional help, but he is afraid of being looked at differently. He doesn’t want to be treated as a “patient” with a problem. He just wants help dealing with emotions and thoughts that bring him down.
To me, seeking professional help seems like the best solution, but to someone is struggling with a mental illness, it is not an easy decision to make; it’s never easy for someone to share their feelings to a stranger.
My boyfriend is still trying to find happiness, but he admits that he feels better than he did even a year ago. He even recently admitted to feeling proud of himself for the progress he has made.
No matter how he might view himself, I see him as a genuine, talented, unique individual. The obstacles he faces with depression make him even stronger.
If I've learned anything about my boyfriend who suffers from a mental illness, it's that he's realizing that there is much more to life than what meets the eye. It's what you make of it. His perseverance is my inspiration in life.