For the past eight years of my life I have been struggling with bipolar depression. I kept it hidden from my friends, family members and relationship partners. I was embarrassed of my mental illness, not wanting to be judged by others. When I moved to college, my mental health overtook my life. I was so conscious of my self- image that I started to lose the confidence I once had before. I started to hate the way I looked and became obsessed with the idea of being perfect. All I wanted was to be normal like everyone else. I put on a happy persona in front of others for so many years that it completely exhausted me and made my anxiety and depression even worse. I had lost my confidence to the point I almost thought there was no hope left to fix what I felt was wrong with me.
The hardest struggle in overcoming my bipolar depression was talking to my parents. My parents are the most understanding and loving people I know. Being a first generation American, it was hard to explain to them that I wasn’t happy and I needed help to overcome this issue. In Indian culture, mental illness is taboo and not taken as seriously as it should. Many people internally struggle with these issues and don’t have the confidence to say something to their parents. After four years of struggling alone, I finally built up the courage to tell my parents something was wrong. They were hesitant at first, but as the years have passed they slowly started to realize that mental illness should not be judged as much as it is in our culture.
The biggest piece of advice I could give someone is: don’t be afraid of who you are. You have to be able to love yourself before you can love others. I have struggled so much with accepting who I am and the way I look, but now that I have started to face my illness without any judgment or self consciousness I feel happier than ever. Don’t be afraid to show your weaknesses – being aware of them will only make you stronger and more confident. There is nothing wrong with expressing one’s feelings as it will only benefit you in the long run. You are beautiful inside and out.
Sree was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She studies Psychology at the University of Dayton.