I Am 1 in 5
A Journey Through Anxiety and Depression

In the realm of mental health, statistics often tell a story more profound than words ever could. “One in five” is not a small number; it reveals that a significant portion—20%—of the population is battling with mental illness. I am one of those five, and this is my story.

From as far back as I can remember, anxiety and depression have been unwelcome companions on my journey through life. Like shadows that never quite fade, they can cast doubt and darkness over even the brightest moments. As a child, I didn’t understand what these feelings meant. I only knew that sometimes the world felt too big, too overwhelming and too heavy to bear.

As I grew older, the weight of anxiety and depression grew heavier, threatening to crush me. I have tried many kinds of therapy, meditation, movement and medication. However, I still feel like I am battling against an invisible foe every day. It is exhausting.  

Strength of Spirit

I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I didn’t experience anxiety and depression but realize that I wouldn’t be me.  My journey with anxiety and depression has shaped me profoundly. It has taught me empathy, compassion and the importance of reaching out to those in need. Every morning, I awaken with hope and gratitude, reminded that my journey living as one in five is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.

As we recognize Mental Health Awareness Month, my story serves as a reminder of the battles being fought behind closed doors. It is a call to action—a rallying cry to break the silence and stigma surrounding mental illness. And it is an opportunity for each of us to make a difference in the lives of those who are struggling.

Supporting those around us

How can we support our friends, family and loved ones who are living with mental illness? It starts with education and understanding. Take the time to learn about their experiences. Listen without judgment and offer a shoulder to lean on. Let your loved ones know that they are not alone—that you are there for them, no matter what.

I understand that supporting someone with mental illness may be hard to do. Fear of stigma and rejection can become powerful barriers to asking for help or even sharing what is happening. As someone with “high-functioning” anxiety and depression, you would not likely know when I am suffering. I have spent a lifetime masking and pretending. Look for signs that things aren’t right.  For me, those are withdrawing from social connections and canceling plans at the last minute. For your loved one, it can be anything that stands out as uncharacteristic.  You don’t have to know for sure that someone is struggling to express concern and support.

If you do know that someone is struggling, encourage them to seek help from qualified professionals and to explore different coping strategies that work for them. Whether it’s therapy, medication, exercise or creative expression, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to mental illness. Be patient and supportive as they navigate their journey to healing and recovery.

Small gestures

Above all, remember that small acts of kindness can make a world of difference to someone struggling with mental illness. A kind word, a listening ear or a simple gesture of support can brighten even the darkest of days. Simple gestures mean the world to me, particularly if I am struggling.

I am one in five. Daily, I am a survivor and a warrior. By sharing my story, I hope that others will share theirs. I wish for kindness and understanding so that we can create a world where everyone feels seen, heard and supported in their struggle. 

 

About Author

Terri Allred

When Terri moved to Rochester 13 years ago, she looked to Rochester Women magazine to find connections. Because she works as a nonprofit consultant and coach, helping women find balance, connection and purpose, she knew how important those connections would be for her. Now, she looks forward to offering that same opportunity for connection to others in our community through her work at Rochester Women Magazine. When she is not working, she enjoys looking for seashells, dancing and snuggling her dogs.

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