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MY MENTAL HEALTH IS BAD (ACCEPTING THAT THIS IS OKAY)

By: Paulina Aguilar

My mental health is bad, and today I want to share with you a story about what this difficult journey has been like for me. My goal is to raise awareness about the importance of seeking professional help without feeling stigmatized for doing so. Remember that “happiness can be found even in the darkest moments, if we are able to use the light well”.

Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004

We can’t deny that the last few years have been chaotic (to say the least), but the reality is that not all of us have experienced this time in the same way. Many of us not only have dealt with the pandemic, work disruptions, lockdowns and so on; we have also dealt with all our mental health issues. And if you’re like me, then you know how distressing it is to be faced with your worst demons without the distractions of normal daily life.

I once read a quote that said, “I’m not afraid of hell, because I’ve been there many times before.” At the time, I did not take it seriously. Today I can tell you that I have come and gone from the underworld and, thanks to that, I have really begun to know myself. Because, come on! Let’s face it, most of us keep our worst sides locked away in a tightly closed box, well hidden within our bodies.

If, for some reason, you feel this post is for you, read on. I am about to tell you my story. I must warn you that it’s not pretty. It doesn’t have a happy ending yet, and it’s no fairy tale.

When the pandemic started at the beginning of 2020, I was still “my old self.” I had good and bad characteristics, but I was a whole, contained, molded, socially approved self. Everything seemed to be going well. And so, the days went by like the swallows in Gustavo Adolfo Becquer’s poem. Then, suddenly, things began to change. My sense of self was transforming. Something was beginning to take hold of me, a feeling of detachment, of unreality, a deep and painful sadness, a darkness that came from within and took control of every cell of my being, first silently, unceasing but forceful.

Months later, and despite the fact that hospitals were running on limited capacity and doctors were present as little as possible, I was diagnosed. And those words were a turning point that swirled my mind with a series of questions. How could I have a mental health problem? Is it a real illness like a cough or cancer? When will it go away? Is it curable? Are they going to medicate me? What the hell is happening to me?

All those questions were like tattoos on my skin, and they made the experience even more confusing. Then I understood the phrase: “Now I was in hell and I couldn’t see past my own nose.” I know that some of you can identify with me: you know it’s not easy. It’s distressing, painful, and potentially fatal.

But the point of this post is not to indulge in self-pity. I must say that over time, and after many crises, I have come to understand that my poor mental health does not define me as a person; it does not make me less and does not isolate me.

And this last word is important: “isolate.” Please don’t do this! You and I need each other. I am aware that we don’t know each other, but we have similar stories, and that is the real purpose of writing this. I want you, as well as me, to know that out there, there are millions of people who are fighting an internal battle, who are silently screaming, silently crying, silently suffering.

Today I can tell you that I am much better. I am not going to lie to you: I have relapses. Many times, I am afraid, I cry uncontrollably, but at the same time, I know that I am in the middle of a long road to recovery and that with a lot of effort and help from the people who love me, someday I will be able to tell my tale of survival. And that should be our goal: to survive, to live, and then to be able to share our journeys to help someone else.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that there are 450 million people with mental health problems worldwide. Reading this number makes me feel less alone and more committed. I just want to tell you that you are a very brave person, that you are worth a lot, that you should never forget your dreams, that you should fight, that you should give a good fight to your illness. For me, as for all the people around you, you are important, you are a star, you are a wonderful universe.

If you are just facing this, do not hesitate to seek help. That will always be the first step. In the USA, there is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline whose number is 988, and they have trained staff to assist you in Spanish.

Finally, don’t forget, your mental health is very important, and it’s time to do something about it. If you don’t help yourself, who else is going to help you? If now is not the time to fight, then when?

About the author: Paulina Aguilar

Cathy-Nuestro-Stories-Writer-Image-200x275

Graduate in Communication Sciences, pizza taster, cat whisperer, Muggle expert and specialist in series and movies.

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