Trigger Warning: This piece contains content relating to suicide and self-harm. Please be advised before reading.
This is not an article that is fun to write, and it is certainly not an article I wanted to write. But, when NBA basketball players Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, and Kelly Oubre Jr. have all openly discussed how they deal with their mental health issues, it’s become a topic that is hard to ignore.
I’ve always been an anxious person. Since fourth grade, I’ve been through a revolving door of psychologists and psychiatrists. I’ve tried so many different combinations of medications that I can’t even find a definitive list of all of them from the CVS database.
Luckily, I can at least put a name to my troubles with mental health: OCD, depression, and anxiety. Like Love, I’ve had a number of panic attacks: the ones where my heart races, my mind fills with millions of thoughts a second, and I can’t breathe. I think I might finally be on the correct amount of medication and therapy, but, more than once, I’ve looked up effective ways of killing myself, daydreamed about going to bed and never waking up again.
A friend of mine, Sara Gordon, put it best in a poem when she said:
I wish you knew
That I am hounded every single day with thoughts that even if I recover, it can all come back overnight.
That sometimes the energy it takes me to make it out of the house is so overwhelming that I’ll lay in bed all day, because that is the only way I can avoid the thoughts.
That every so often I break down in tears because it’s all too much and I can’t escape my own head.
People like to joke that they have OCD when they line up books in alphabetical order, but they never talk about the voice in your head that tells you if you don’t wash your hands a third time that they won’t be clean, and they must be clean. No one who has been diagnosed with OCD has ever uttered, “I’m so OCD LOLOLOL!!!” because the people who do have never had to go through a constant mantra in their head in order to relax. Nobody who has ever said, “I’m so depressed LOLOLOLOL!!!” has ever gone on Google to try and find out the best way to overdose on pills and come up empty. No one.
I’m not entirely sure why people feel the need to hide their disorders from people — I just know that I hope people don’t realize I wash my face after each meal because I’m afraid I’ll bring crumbs home and start an infestation of bugs.
Much like what Sara said, I wake up everyday and the issues start. It affects the way I speak with people, because I’m constantly afraid I’ve offended them; it affects my job, because I’m constantly checking things over again and again; it affects how I am at home, because I’m constantly afraid of tracking crumbs everywhere and attracting mice or ants or cockroaches or bedbugs into my apartment, because it’s happened before. It makes me take multiple showers a day, scares me away from physical exercise and cooking. Slowly but surely, I’m fighting back, but it’s a sickness you can never fully heal, an invisible chronic pain you have to live with, and sometimes, it feels like you’re all alone in it.
In America, the issue of mental health has allowed politicians to use it as a crutch. There is more nuance to how to deal with mental health, and it’s more than getting rid of violent video games and raising the age to purchase guns from 18 to 21. Yes, the kid who shot and killed 17 people (14 students and 3 staff) at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was mentally unwell and was able to purchase killing machines in such a way that could have been easily avoided, but restricting gun laws, while absolutely necessary, does not fully solve the problem. Even though Florida passed a new law aimed at limiting gun sales and providing more funding for mental health services, it’s not enough. The country needs its politicians to get that we have a long way to go to understand how mental health works.
Luckily, they aren’t the only ones fighting for better mental health outreach.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has been putting on the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk, which is used to raise awareness and prevent suicide. If you want, you can even pitch in: donate to Sara’s page here.
If you are feeling alone, just remember that you’re not. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255 or visit them here.
To fight for better gun control, march with March for Our Lives on the 24th in your home city to show the world that we are done with gun violence.
If basketball superstars can openly talk about their issues, you can too. Hell, it’s hard for me to open up about this right here, but I’m doing it because I know it’s important. We need better mental health services. Advocate for yourself and others, so that people know they are never truly alone. If I can get the help I need, you can too.