By Kristen Bell
When I was 18, my mom sat me down and said, “If there ever comes a time where you feel like a dark cloud is following you, you can get help. You can talk to me, talk to a therapist, talk to doctor. I want you to know that there are options.”
I’m so thankful for her openness on this predominantly silent subject because later, when I was in college, that time did come. I felt plagued with a negative attitude and a sense that I was permanently in the shade. I’m normally such a bubbly, positive person, and all of a sudden I stopped feeling like myself.
There was no logical reason for me to feel this way. I was at New York University, I was paying my bills on time, I had friends and ambition—but for some reason, there was something intangible dragging me down. Luckily, thanks to my mom, I knew that help was out there—and to seek it without shame.
When you try to keep things hidden, they fester and ultimately end up revealing themselves in a far more destructive way than if you approach them with honesty. I didn’t speak publicly about my struggles with mental health for the first 15 years of my career. But now I’m at a point where I don’t believe anything should be taboo. So here I am, talking to you about what I’ve experienced.
Here’s the thing: For me, depression is not sadness. It’s not having a bad day and needing a hug. It gave me a complete and utter sense of isolation and loneliness. Its debilitation was all-consuming, and it shut down my mental circuit board. I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer, like I was a failure. Now, after seeking help, I can see that those thoughts, of course, couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s important for me to be candid about this so people in a similar situation can realize that they are not worthless and that they do have something to offer. We all do.
There is such an extreme stigma about mental health issues, and I can’t make heads or tails of why it exists. Anxiety and depression are impervious to accolades or achievements. Anyone can be affected, despite their level of success or their place on the food chain. In fact, there is a good chance you know someone who is struggling with it since nearly 20% of American adults face some form of mental illness in their lifetime. So why aren’t we talking about it?
Mental health check-ins should be as routine as going to the doctor or the dentist. After all, I’ll see the doctor if I have the sniffles. If you tell a friend that you are sick, his first response is likely, “You should get that checked out by a doctor.” Yet if you tell a friend you’re feeling depressed, he will be scared or reluctant to give you that same advice. You know what? I’m over it.