by Rebecca Boorstin
Trigger warning: Mental illness
Being from New York City, stressor related mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression seem omnipresent in many people. With New York’s cutthroat work environment, grossly expensive necessities, and dark subways plagued with rats and moldy walls, stress and anxiety are mental states experienced daily. I also attended a high school specializing in the fine and performing arts chock full of competition and stress in all departments of teen angst—grades, physical appearance, popularity, roles in plays and musicals. I as well as many of my peers from high school have dealt with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. “I can’t hang out today, I have therapy” and “I hate this anti depressant my psychiatrist placed me on” became as common daily tasks as homework, spending time with friends, and eating vegetables.
Despite this overwhelmingly optimistic picture I am painting of New York and my high school, I still had a much better response to my mental health issues than many people I know here at Pitzer—even when I was in my darkest days of depression, I never felt alone or alienated. Being around people going through the same struggles as I was made these issues easier to discuss in both academic and personal settings. These were never taboo topics, and after I finished my personal struggles I was able to reach out to my friends whose issues had just begun.
Since moving to California and beginning college, I have noticed a major shift in how these issues are confronted and discussed. While many of my peers here are wonderful, inspirational, educated and kind people, they are less apt to discuss these topics, whether due to a lack of experience or discomfort due to stigma.
I happen to be in a much more fortunate situation, both financially and socially, where if I deal with depression or mental illness again in the future, I have a buffer and support system to turn to in my time of need. However, many people who need to obtain jobs and income independently face many more challenges, including stigma that scares off potential employers, lack of energy and motivation to apply for a job, and lack of social support from family and friends.
I discussed with my abnormal psychology professor different methods and tips for people dealing with depression and anxiety who need to apply for jobs, but may not have as many supportive outlets as some in a similar situation.
- Do not blame yourself for having a mental illness. Yes, stigma is a major issue in our society. Especially in places where mental illness is seldom apparent or discussed, it is easy to feel isolated or guilty for your state of mental wellbeing. Mental illness can happen any time to any person, and you are still worthy of as much success and love as every other person in the world.
- Let your friends and family know what is going on, and how they can help. Anyone who has not dealt with mental illness cannot understand how it feels, or how to assist in one’s time of need. Explain that it cannot be fixed by environmental conditions, and that their support is necessary but should be tactful.
- Format your life around a schedule. Making sure you take care of your physical health is extremely important. Conditions such as insomnia that can cause depression are detrimental to professional wellbeing as well—living on a different schedule than conventional work hours makes things much more stressful.
- Get professional help from any possible resource. A career counselor, therapist, or any other form of outside assistance without bias and with an experienced standpoint can make you feel less alone, less stigmatized, and less unprepared to move forward in the professional world.
- Take it one day at a time. In The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the protagonist Kimmy tells her boss in distress to live life by every ten seconds. If a job opportunity slips or if you don’t perform well in an interview, there is always tomorrow, and the day after. Just by living life you are winning.