We are not defined by mental illness

Whatever you feel is valid, but it is not everything you are

SYDNEY DOWNING, Evergreen columnist

I am not my mental illness, nor is anyone else. I think of myself as powerful, kind and grateful. Dealing with my mental health for the past few years has never been easy, but being who I am makes it worth the fight. 

Mental illness is a hard topic; it is never an easy battle to deal with or see friends go through. Being a supportive friend can make it a lot easier. 

Elise Kapsi, junior business management major, is confident, intelligent and witty. She may deal with personal mental challenges but she is proud of who she is. 

“It is important to validate what [friends with mental illness] are feeling,” Kapsi said. “I used to think before I was diagnosed [with anxiety] that I was the only one with it and everybody around me noticed.” 

Nobody should ever have to feel embarrassed or worried if someone notices your mental illness. It will never define you and is often something you cannot control. 

It can feel so scary to have struggles with any mental illness in public or at school because it can feel uncontrollable, or not “normal” and even at times makes you feel crazy. 

However, hiding it to feel “normal” is not worth the energy; not a single human is “normal.”

WSU junior, Grace Hatchett, is a strong, joyful and artistic person. She knows she is defined by anything but her mental illness. 

“You are not the one that’s controlling [when you feel like you can’t breathe or anxious about the way your hair feels on your neck]; it’s your mental illness,” Hatchett said. “But that isn’t you as an individual.”

I am guilty of trying to hide when I feel anxious in public. I need to let go of the fear that someone else will judge me because who cares? 

I am doing so much right now, being a full-time student pursuing a major and a minor, writing articles about topics that mean a lot to me and focusing on staying happy throughout most days. This is what really matters because I will not be able to always control my anxiety.

“It’s okay for people to know [that you have a mental illness],” Hatchett said. “You can’t let it keep you from doing things.” 

Realize how powerful you are dealing with mental health; you are so strong and are never outlined as something you experience.

Many students struggle with mental illnesses in college, and it can be very challenging to know your limits. We have so many assignments, and it can feel overwhelming for everyone. It is good to know when you need to take time for yourself, and it is okay to do so.

“When you start to notice yourself retreating back into yourself … that’s when it is time to put the brakes on things and figure it out,” Kapsi said.

School is important but not as needed as feeling happy because as a student or just a person in general, recognize how much you are doing and be proud of that. It is so incredible.

“It’s important to take pauses,” Hatchett said. “Realize that it’s okay to step back and let yourself breathe.”

Self-care is essential for everyone — especially being in college. I personally take a short amount of time out of every day to make sure I am focusing on little joyful things.

Between making a coffee, relaxing, watching a comfort show or even just making my favorite meal, I do what I can because I deserve to do something joyful for my well-being. 

“There is a vast amount of ways you can help yourself feel better and what works for you may not work for others,” Kapsi said. “But take care of yourself, that’s my mantra.” 

We all struggle with something and whatever you feel or go through is always valid. However, what you feel will never define you. 

Be kind to your mind and loving to your body. Our minds and bodies do so much for us every day, and we should take care of them.