This is my story of overcoming and being empowered by my mental health. 

I will be the first to say that living with high anxiety and depression sucks. It is possibly the worst feeling in the world when the irrational voice in your own head is telling you your biggest insecurities and failures. If you were like me, those thoughts just stay there too.

Let’s start from the beginning. My junior year of high school I came out as gay to my entire high school. It was not easy coming from a primarily heternormative, suburban town in Connecticut, but I still was able to enjoy the last two years of high school freely, for the most part. 

That was also when I met the first boy who paid attention to me. I was not used to anyone ever giving me attention who was interested in me more than a friend way. However, he played with my head and my heart the entire time. 

That was the first time I had a suicidal thought. It continued throughout the rest of my junior year and all throughout senior year. I knew my mental health was not good then, but it wasn’t impacting me more than once or twice a week. 

The summer before I started at the University of Rhode Island was one of the best of my life, and I was so excited to start college in the fall. I came to URI all bright and smiley, but also nervous of what was going to happen in the next four years. I met some really great people and some not so great people, but I was living my best life, or so I thought. 

Throughout my first year at URI, my anxiety and depression became increasingly worse. I had suicidal thoughts almost every day of the week. I began to shut down when I got into my head, and just keep spiraling until I could find a solution. It progressively got worse and worse each and everyday. 

One of the coping mechanisms I used was self harm. I knew when I turned on myself and was able to inflict pain on myself there was a genuine problem. I knew I needed to seek help, but I was more scared of what the people in my life were going to think of me than getting better for myself. 

It all changed in April, when my “friends” turned on me and used my poor mental health against me. It took so much energy not to break down and hit the lowest point in my life, but instead I took that energy and used it to my benefit.

I started weekly therapy at the counseling center, where antidepressants quickly became a thought. I spent my summer working at URI as a tour guide, where I continued to go to therapy, but I felt so much better. I decided not to go on medication because I was making great progress. But I still came into summer with a nerves in my stomach, terrified that if I didn’t love it, I was going to transfer. 

However, this summer was hands down the best summer of my life. I met the most supporting, understanding and strong people I know, and today I am lucky to have them as my best friends. 

Today, I stand stronger than ever. I have self-confidence I never thought I could have. I have the ability to control my anxiety and depression and stay mindful in the moments where it gets tough. 

Today I get to share my story with you, in order to end the stigma around mental health. Through the ups and downs, life gets tough, but what shows your true strength is what you are able to overcome and grow from. You are so much more capable than that irrational voice in your head is telling you. You are so much more important than those blinding thoughts that keep you spiraling. You are allowed to ask for help without judgement. You have the ability to become the best version of yourself, but you can go even farther with the proper resources. 

Know you are not alone in this battle. Know your worth and keep your head held high, because there is only one you, and that you are beautiful.