We learn lessons every day from both the incredible and challenging pieces of who we are. Those lessons strengthen our hearts. They change us. They move us in the direction of greatness, even if it means overcoming intense adversity. I live with mental illness and it’s taught me lessons I couldn’t begin to describe. If you are like me, this is the advice I would hand to you with an open heart and an understanding soul.

1. You have to understand that you aren’t alone.¬†

One in five people deal with mental illness, so that means in your friend group of five people, one of you has something they are dealing with. I’m that person. It’s not a pity sticker or a guilt trip but I’m just a normal person who thinks about things more deeply and who get more anxious over things that shouldn’t make me worry. I have physical reactions to things going on in my mind mentally and I’ve gone through a rough few years that definitely contributed to my mental wellness. However, I’m incredibly strong and I am okay.

There’s going to be times when I’m okay and when I’m simply not okay. There are going to be rough patches and “I don’t know’s”, but isn’t that life? I accept my fate and my genetic makeup and I roll with it each and everyday. I remind myself that I’ve made it this far and that nothing is going to stop me, not even life. The fact of that makes me look forward to each new day, instead of dreading it. Instead of letting myself sleep in and be antisocial I wake up early, go out and do things and keep myself very socially involved.

2. You can’t let it define who you are.

I can’t let my problems define me or drag me down. I think this struggle incredibly shapes someone as a person. Dealing with hardships roughly molds someone’s character into a solid foundation on which they can make choices and opinions. These opinions can be formed through experience and observation. Having social anxiety, general anxiety or depression doesn’t make you a human error or a mess-up, but it just makes you different. You have a certain quirk that makes you work a little bit harder to get what you want out of life.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is most definitely a serious condition and by all means, seeking help is only beneficial and productive, but the first step is realizing that you are a person and an amazing one at that and nothing defines you unless you want it to. You create your own identity and you can still be confident and beautiful and strong and independent. Learn what you need to work on and you can convert those emotions into something productive and creative. ¬†Make sure to trust in those closest to you because I guarantee, most of them truly want what’s best for you, even if they don’t necessarily fully understand what is going on in your mind.

3. You must embrace all of yourself. It’s okay to be different. We all are.

You’re right, no one will ever truly understand what you are going through, just because everyone’s experiences and issues are all different and unique even if they are under the same label and that may seem daunting. You have to think of it as being human. Every single person is different: appears differently, talks differently, acts differently and is made up of biologically different components, but that doesn’t mean we can’t relate to each other’s troubles and understand one another on a human level?

There is no one answer to being happy or realizing that you will be okay, but my advice is to first, realize that no one is perfect and neither are you and you never will be and that is okay. Second, perfect the skills that you love about yourself so that you can see how fantastic and amazing you are instead of focusing on the one D you got on that paper a week ago and lastly, remember that life is short and you will want to take advantage of every minute you have, even the bad ones.

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