I don’t want to continue like this. I want to get rid of my fears now. Right now. I want to get out of the sofa and I want to stop crying. But my feet froze and my body decided that it was not the right time to move. Because at the same time I also just wanted to hide under my bed, far away from the outside world. I just didn’t want to think about ‘being alone’. The light at the end of the tunnel never seemed further away.
That was the moment, almost one year ago today, that I flipped the switch: something was wrong. In retrospect, you could’ve seen it coming all along: for months already I was really irritable, had a lot of fights at home, didn’t meet a lot of friends, was tired easily and couldn’t be alone anymore. The typical signals that something wasn’t right. And as strange as it might seem: I was lucky. I was lucky because my parents immediately interfered. That exact same day, the day of my most overwhelming anxiety attack, I went to the doctor. And from that moment I got intensive support: weekly breathing excercises at the physician, biweekly visits to the psychologist, a couple of sessions with a mindfulness coach and my antidepressants. One happy pill a day. The first weeks were difficult, but I started to crawl out of my cave.
This is the first time that I tell this story out loud. That I found the courage to tell everything. Untill now only a handful of family and friends knew what was going on. People knew I wasn’t okay, but they didn’t really understand what was wrong. And I didn’t want them to either. I didn’t want them to see that the alway smiling, happy Stefanie wasn’t happy anymore. That image of me was so important. So I put on a mask, for a very long time. This was a very lonely period. Sometimes it even felt like everybody else around you could be happy and I had failed. I was just weak compared to everything I saw on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Nevertheless, in Belgium one in every four people gets affected by more or less serious mental illness during their life. Yearly, 700 000 people get affected by psychological problems. In comparison, this would mean all the citizens of Frankfurt or the population of Bilbao and Utrecht combined struggle. A survey of the Flemish Youth council this summer showed that mental illness was one of the top priorities for young people. When I finally shared my story, other people (friends, family or people I didn’t know at all) started to reach out to me with their personal stories. This is when I was convinced: I wasn’t alone in this.
However, it isn’t easy to talk about it. There is still a huge taboo. Today at the start of this new year, we want to invite you to participate in the campaign Jong Groen started two months ago. We launched #kopzorgen. Loosely translated, kopzorgen means things that are bugging you. Things that stick with you, in your head. People can use this hashtag to tell others what’s going on. To share the harder times. To show others that they aren’t alone. That it is okay to rest on the breakdown-lane of life, to take care of your head.
This is how we can make social media a place without masks. A place where we can be our amazing, unique, not so perfect self.
Stefanie de Bock is the chairperson of Jong Groen, the Flemish young greens.
This article is a translation of her publication at De Morgen. Read the original article here.