My name is Jay Jones and I am the host of Real Talk: The Mental Side of Life which can be found Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Apple Podcasts. I am coming to you all to share my own journey of mental health and where I am today.
When I Realized I Had a Mental Health Condition
For me, I learned very early on that my depression and anxiety were a part of me. I did not know what to call it at the time, but I found myself, at the age of 12 feeling down, hopeless, and alone on a regular basis. It just so happens that this coincides with the time the last of my siblings moved out of our childhood home. I knew, in the back of my mind, that feeling this way was “unusual” but at the same time during that period of my life, I did not feel as though I could discuss it with my parents who were my only outlets, nor any of my friends due to the stigma surrounding mental health.
When I went to high school, I sought counseling for all four years to talk about different things that were going on in my life and to help me navigate through the depression (although I was not diagnosed at the time by a behavioral health professional). This was the same during my time in college in which the services provided on campus included therapy which I found to be very useful and beneficial to help me learn and grow as an individual navigating this familiar yet unfamiliar space.
It wasn't until 2015/2016 that I truly discovered and understood what I was dealing with inside myself. At one point I ended up in the emergency room and I knew eventually, this needed to be treated, otherwise, I am not sure where I’d be at today. I ended up going back to the DC area where I was medically diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorder (I did not know this was a thing until my doctor explained it to me!) My experiences and learning more about the mental health conditions I navigate through daily helped me to understand what I needed to do for myself and how to properly manage them as much as possible.
What I Wish People Understood About Mental Illness
The first thing that comes to mind is – Mental Illness will not always be visible. I think there is a stigma that society associates with mental health that you have to see it in order to say “He/She/They are going through something.” That is not always true. My own story is an example of this. On the outside growing up, I was the happy-go-lucky kid who was involved in so many activities and doing it with a smile on my face. And on the inside, I was hurting, and I did not know how to express myself to my own family or friends.
There are individuals who are going through a journey of mental health that we cannot see but there are signs in which we should notice for us to listen and pay attention to. Conversations and understanding are a huge part of mental health versus resorting to judgment from outside appearances.
Additionally, I wish people looked at mental illness with more of a holistic approach versus going to a negative connotation when they hear those words. Relating to what I said above, the people that are living with a mental illness of their own could be someone that is very close to them, and they may not realize it. It is important for us to understand what we say matters and minimizing mental health, especially around those that we care about, could impact them negatively and we may not realize it until it is too late. What I would like for people to do is look at mental health from a perspective of learning, listening, and understanding because that is how we begin to help others in this space.
Finally - Why I Want to Defeat the Stigma
I talked about this back in 2020 when the pandemic took hold of all our lives and brought mental health to the forefront for so many people.
When I was growing up, and in my own little community, I felt as though I could not discuss this topic with friends or family. Around that time, it felt as though talking about mental health was seen as a topic that no one should ever discuss. I also grew up around sports and the major theme around that topic was mental fortitude and showing toughness all the time. If you were “mentally weak”, then you could not be tough or grow up to be a strong adult or build a family, etc… This is not to diminish my own upbringing which was great in so many ways but speaking specifically on how I felt.
Fast forward to my own journey and deciding to have the courage to speak up and out about this subject that is near and dear to me, I learned that there is strength in being open and vulnerable about what you are going through. For too long, we have bottled inside of us the things in our lives that we experience. It then gets to a tipping point in which either the individual or multiple people are affected by it.
The stigma surrounding mental health is ill-placed because, in my mind, we all have mental health struggles that we experience at one point in our lives. We are human and we should understand that it is all right to experience these and share them to help navigate it together. I want our society to be able to talk more openly about mental health and what people are doing to help themselves within the space because there could be one thing that helps one person at the right time. The more we share, the more we grow together. Mental health is not a bad thing, it’s the thing that ties us together and we can grow with one another.