October 10, 2018

That old saying about how no two snowflakes are alike? Yeah, that goes for you and your mental health, too.

There are so many of us dealing with a myriad issues within the confines of our brain. But when it comes to understanding our mental health, there is no “one size fits all” method we can tap into to find out what works for us.

While one in four people are affected by mental disorders, not all of those people are impacted in ways that look the same. There are a lot of preconceived notions floating around out there about what it means to be working through things like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other issues. But most of the time, someone’s depression or anxiety may look totally different than another person—and that’s OK.

While one in four people are affected by mental disorders, not all of those people are impacted in ways that look the same.

Regardless of whether you’ve been in the throes of taking care of your mental health or are just starting to take the small steps necessary to tune into your needs, hold onto the fact that your journey is uniquely yours.

Don’t fret about fitting into a box.

When it comes to how you talk about your mental health or which routines help you navigate it, take the opportunity to embrace whatever your journey looks like—free of judgement. Let your experience with your mental health describe you, not define you.

Let your experience with your mental health describe you, not define you.

This World Mental Health Day, we wanted to hear from you about what you wish people knew when it comes to confronting mental health issues. We reached out to the Shine community for stories and learnings gathered over the years.

Here’s what you said:

Know Yourself—And Put Your Feelings First

“I wish more people knew that anxiety and depression can be very situational for many people. There are obviously a whole other subset for whom these are NOT situational and persist despite their surroundings. But I do think that with social media, it has become easier to label ourselves and one of those labels or narratives becomes 'I am an anxious person.' I had to learn to challenge that with 'I am an anxious person in this situation.' And when the situation simply can’t change, never feel ashamed to reach for help medically or otherwise. If you sprained your ankle, you wouldn’t hesitate to use crutches to give it a break and let it heal. Treat your brain with the same level of care.”

-Lauren A., 26, U.S.

"Just because someone is still a typically functioning individual does not diminish the significance of their mental illness; and just because someone is less functional doesn’t make them incapable of typical life experiences."

Sandra, 20, Zimbabwe

"Having anxiety and periodically going through times of depression, I've learned that putting yourself first is most important. It's important to have people close to you who understand what you're going through and to take time to yourself when needed. Don't force yourself into situations that trigger your anxiety if you don't want to do them."

Cheyanne M., 24, U.S.

"I wish people knew that mental health issues don't make you weak. Also, that mental health issues are really common and have vast ranges of severity. My mental health issues have taught me that I am compassionate and thoughtful. I think my sensitivity is a strength because I have helped others."

Beth, 35, Oman

"Mental health is just as important as your physical health. Check in with yourself on a regular basis to assess how you’re feeling and behaving. Remember, there is no shame in getting the help you need, via a counselor, mentor, friend, relative, or book."

Sonya, 58, U.S.

"It’s OK to feel depressed, anxious, mad, or any other emotion. I've learned that trying to suppress feelings and pretend everything is OK is the worst thing someone can do. Your feelings ARE valid and it IS OK to feel them. Acknowledging your feelings is a crucial step in recovery. You need to listen to your body and mind."

Jami A., 21, U.S.

"Living with mental health issues means just that—I am still living. A lot of people treat me differently when they find out I have anxiety/depression because they think it means I’m delicate or ask 'how I look so good or have it so together' if I have those things. Living with mental health issues doesn’t mean I can’t live a full life. Like anything, I need different supports or skills to be my best."

Jessica A., U.S.

'Living with mental health issues doesn’t mean I can’t live a full life.'
-Jessica A.

"Depression isn’t contagious! I just don’t get why people, including my relatives, started avoiding me when they found out that I have depression. Whenever I go for interviews, the conversations always end when I mention my mental illness. I’m not a crazy person, I’m a human being just like you. Despite everything nasty that has been said, I realized that none of that matters because I have learned to love myself for the way I am."

Reyna, 13, Singapore

Take Things One Step at a Time

"Mental health is just another aspect of our health—we need to care for it, and sometimes get check ups!"

Janet J., 61, U.S.

"I wish people knew that just because you suffer from anxiety or depression or anything like that that you’re not weak or incapable of doing a hard job or task. You’re able to do whatever you want. Your mental illness does not make you weaker or any less valuable. You’re stronger than ever while learning to live with your day-to-day struggles. You’re a valuable assets to any job or any person’s life, not a burden."

Kerry, 21, U.S.

"I wish people were more aware that, for some, looking at life positively is a daily struggle...sometimes minute-by-minute struggle, and that struggle is draining. It squelches dreams, interests, and passions. There is a tiredness that sleep doesn’t cure. It may be something you don’t experience and so you can’t understand it. Just know that it’s out there, and try to be empathetic and kind even if people are grumpy, angry, or unresponsive. Depression is expressed in more ways than just sadness. Pause before you judge and just do or say something kind."

Stacy, 40, Antigua and Barbuda

"I wish more people knew how common it is to not feel OK at times and that they are not alone in their experience. I also wish more people knew that keeping healthy mentally takes regular care, just like keeping healthy physically. It is something we need to be mindful of. Too often we are told to be kind to others, but we do not show ourselves the same level of kindness and care."

Kaci, 32, U.S.

"Mental health is a daily practice like physical health. For me, making it a priority has increased my intrinsic motivation and confidence to lean into my best self."

Shawna S., 50, Netherlands

"Anxiety has always held me back from being my best self, through therapy, my daily Shine routine, and literature, I’m starting to see how anxiety impacts my daily life and am finding ways to live with it. I’ve always struggled with wanting to do everything in my life perfectly and end up getting anxious and worrying about what’s ahead instead of understanding the worst possible outcome is likely not that bad. It’s a strength that I’m always giving my full heart and wanting to be a good person to others. If you’re struggling with anxiety, remember you’re stronger than you know—don’t let the inner critic win!"

Kim U., 29, U.S.

Talk It Out, If You Can

"I want people to know that anxiety is more common than you think and it is totally OK to feel and be vulnerable about your emotions. At the end of the day, that raw and sincere vulnerability makes you stronger and you’ll realize that you have a stronger community of people who love and understand you even through the the hardest of times."

Victoria, 17, U.S.

"I wish people knew how important it is to protect your mental health. We live in a cold world. We expect ourselves to be resilient and always bounce back. We think we’re fine on the outside, but suffering in silence on the inside. We were made for this. Process your feelings and trauma with someone. How you are feeling matters. We always say things like protect your spirit or protect your energy—well, protect your mental health! Let’s end the stigma and start glowing together!"

Paige Nichole, 26, U.S.

"Find a trusted person—for me, that's a friend or a priest—someone that's willing to listen and not give any opinions. That will help a lot. Remember with our busy world there are still people willing to listen and a lot of people love us."

Ruth, 57, Philippines

"Find your people. You don’t have to struggle solo. There’s a support group, a therapist, an online therapist, a healer, a wise friend for each of us. Find your people. The ones you can lean on and allow them to help you. We weren’t meant to go it alone."

Meredith M., 38, U.S.

'Find your people. You don't have to struggle solo.'
- Meredith M.

"Whatever your problem, chances are someone else has worked through it. Share your feelings with someone, reach out for help. It’s all around you, if you look."

Kathleen P., 66, U.S.

"I have learned that sometimes you NEED to reach out because you need an unbiased, professional practitioner to help you connect with yourself. Reaching out helped me help myself be better and improve my professional life, my personal life, and silence self doubt, worry, shame, guilt, stress, dissatisfaction, and a lot more that comes with my lifestyle."

Priyanka, 30, India

"One thing that helped me immensely was this little saying: 'Anxiety is a liar.' Also it has helped me a lot to talk openly and freely about the fact that I have general anxiety."

Emily H., 23, U.S.

"I’ve learned about the power of being vulnerable. When you are brave enough to push past stigma and share your struggle, you light a path and open a door for others who have been sitting in the dark alone afraid to name their struggle."

Stephanie, 48, U.S.

"Even if we think we don't contribute to the stigma around mental health, we may. I grew up in a household where mental health issues didn't exist—as long as you smiled and worked hard, you were fine. I've learned it's OK to have emotions, to feel into the feelings, and most importantly that it's OK not to be OK. Sometimes it gets to a point where upset feelings are too much for us to handle on our own, and it's OK to reach out to a friend, relative, and/or professional for help. Mental health forms a basis for us to go out into the world and achieve the things we want, and we should pay as much attention to it as our physical health and our dreams, goals, and plans."

Tatiana R., 23, U.S.

'Mental health forms a basis for us to go out into the world and achieve the things we want.'
- Tatiana R.

You’re Not Alone

"I wish people knew that some days are really hard, those days feel like no one understands you, like you’re all alone. It has made people who love me worry about me. And it makes it hard to sometimes do to the simplest of tasks. It helps me to journal each morning and read a positive, uplifting blog or article. Doing something for someone else helps, too. Its gets you out of your head and makes you feel good to bring a smile to someone. I have come to see that I am more resilient than I give myself credit for."

Terrill M., 50, U.S.

"So many people, including myself, struggle with the voices in our heads. They are not always your friend and it can be embarrassing to share with the people you love and care about. Sometime I just smile and power through, even though I’m tearing myself down on the inside. Make sure to ask your friends and family how they are doing because you may not know when they are faking a smile and powering through. Everyone is struggling with something."

Elizabeth P., 27, U.S.

"Know you’re not alone. There’s others out there. In some cases, letting people in can actually strengthen a relationship, because you’re fostering that trust in them and letting them know that you want them to be a part of your life."

Ron, Canada

"From my experience mental health is so broad. I wish people knew that when you hear someone is diagnosed with mental illness that whatever that diagnosis is, we cannot automatically jump to stereotypes or what we have heard or seen on the news or movies/tv shows, etc. There is a huge range to what a person’s diagnosis entails. Jumping to conclusions about someone based on their diagnosis leads to stigma. Why not talk to the person and understand where they are? And realize their mental illness does not define them. They are always a person first and foremost, and NOT their mental illness."

Ava, 35, U.S.

"First just know that you are not alone. I was always sitting alone thinking I don't fit in, my anxiety kept me alone in a corner. Then I started pushing myself to get out more and the more I pushed myself and started talking to people, I found out that more people had mental illness than I thought. Baby steps helped me get there.

Deana, 48, U.S.

What do you wish people knew about mental health, from your experience?
Join the #WorldMentalHealthDay convo and share your answer on Twitter.


Responses were edited and condensed for clarity.

If you're struggling with your mental health, know you don't have to go it alone. Call 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741. Both are free, confidential, and available 247. And if you or a friend need urgent help, call 911.

Read next: The First-Ever Self-Care Atlas: How People in 50 Countries Find Zen

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