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Ending the Stigma of Mental Health

This blog is very different from anything I’ve written. I contemplated writing it 100x over, because I wasn’t sure I could put it out into the world. However, after spending weeks going back and forth, I decided I needed to; not just for me, but in the hope that it helps other people. For the last several months, my personal social media has been pretty quiet. For the most part, I’ve been keeping to myself, with the exception of the wonderful shows I had the opportunity to be a part of. So, for anyone who’s wondering where I’ve been, here we go.

I spent the early part of 2019 coming to terms and dealing with a mental health issue; anxiety. Anxiety has a wide spectrum, and can range anywhere from moderate to severe. There are various forms of treatment, including, but not limited to therapy and/or medication. It’s up to each individual to figure out what works best for them, and to seek that form of help. When I first came to the realization that I had anxiety, I was still in college (2016). However, I didn’t want to acknowledge it at the time. Needless to say, that attitude toward it caught up with me.

I decided 2019 was the year I would really start learning about, and understanding how to best treat my anxiety. I spent the first half of the year doing just that. I worked extremely hard to work through personal issues, and old wounds that obviously hadn’t healed like I thought they had. Doing all of this takes a tremendous amount of work, and it’s something I’m very proud of. What I didn’t realize, however, was that other people wouldn’t necessarily feel the same way. As soon as I started talking about it, I received an incredible amount of backlash. I’d hear things like, “Why are you so sensitive?” or “Stop over-reacting!” And, my personal favorite, “Stop playing the victim.” Let me tell you, someone who battles a mental illness every day is anything but a victim.

I learned the hard way that people I thought were in my corner, really weren’t. People said they cared and wanted to help, but at the end of the day, really didn’t. That took a toll on the hard work I had done to get to a mentally sound and stable place. After reaching a breaking point, decided I needed to make a change. It was obvious that other people weren’t going to choose me, so I had to choose myself. I needed to take a step back from everyone and everything. Friends, social media, anything that wasn’t helping me heal.

Amidst all of this, I had the opportunity to be involved in two amazing productions; Puffs, and Pirates of Penzance. Within these casts, I met people who did care, and who were supportive. Without even knowing it, these people restored my faith in people. Because of them, I slowly began to come out of this isolation I had put myself in. The kindness, warmth, and happiness I felt walking into rehearsals or a show everynight changed the game for me. I also met some of the strongest people I've ever known, and they inspire me on a daily basis to choose strength and happiness, even when I don't feel like it. Like anyone struggling with some kind of mental illness, I have good days, as well as bad days. The difference now, however, is I've learned how to cope with the bad days and what I need to do to get myself back on track.

All of this has changed the way I look at a lot of things. Very few people have access to me these days; not because I don’t value having people in my life, but because I need to be protective of myself and my energy. From time to time, I do miss having close friends in my life. However, I also recognize that some days, it's really for the best. It’s also changed the way I use social media. As a blogger and actress, I stay as active as I can on my professional accounts. My personal accounts don't get very much attention. Very rarely will you find me scrolling through Facebook or Instagram anymore.

If you’re struggling to come to terms with a mental illness in any way, shape, or form, I hope you know you aren’t alone. I hope you know you’re worthy of everything good in this world. I hope you know that other people’s opinions of you do not define you. And, most importantly, I hope you know you aren’t sensitive, you aren’t over-reacting, and you are certainly not a victim. And, for those with a friend or loved one struggling with mental illness, please check up on them. They need the support, even if they don't admit it. And, to the casts of Puffs and Priates of Penzance, thank you for the pick-me-up that changed everything for me.

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