I had my first experience of therapy when I was 25 and struggling with depression.
Because of the stigma around depression and my own expectation to “snap out” of being unhappy, I stalled on seeking professional help. I felt like I was an ungrateful cry-baby that complained at the first sight of difficulty.
Emerging into adulthood has been a tough ride. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career during my final year of studying, and my stupid boyfriend of 4 years decided to break up with me. I have no idea why the breakup knocked me off my feet.
Once I left university, I struggled to land a job, and my parents’ frustration with me was growing by the minute. When I did land an internship, learning professionalism was like a baby learning how to walk but without the love and patience of a parent. I was constantly failing to meet corporate’s expectation of the perfect employee who always delivers.
My salary wasn’t enough to cover shared rent, and I ended having to live at home. I was a kidult, irritated by my parents’ rules which I had no choice but to follow while struggling to establish my own independence.
The growing distance between my friends and I left me feeling lonely. I tried to build new relationships, but those often didn’t work out too well.
Then, the deaths of close family and friends drove the final nail into the coffin, and the grief of dealing with loss coupled with the difficulties of growing up led me to the therapist’s room.
I thought I was the only young person in the world dealing with growing up difficulties, especially because everybody else’s lives seemed perfect and flawless on my social media timelines.
But it turns out that I was wrong.
Studies show that mental illness among millennials has risen significantly since 2000, with millennials reporting higher stress levels than Gen Xers and Boomers. Stress is a result of difficulties with school, work, money and self-esteem.
I felt like a failure because I didn’t attain the success associated with being a millennial.
I was supposed to be a bustling entrepreneur making waves in business through my innovative start-up. I was supposed to be well-off, buying a home and a fancy car while globe-trotting on business and leisure by 25. I was supposed to be a trend-setter with a huge social media following to show how influential I am.
But this was far from being the case.
I placed pressure on myself to be this type of young person, and I felt like I was expected to attain this because I was a graduate with all the opportunity in the world to do whatever I wanted.
Therapy helped me put into perspective the successes I made so far. I graduated from university and landed an internship where I had the opportunity to learn and earn a salary, no matter how little I felt it was. Despite being treated as a kidult, I had a family that loved and supported me. And I was alive. Sure I was mourning the loss of my loved ones, but I was well enough to continue on my life journey with those that were still here with me.
I had to dig into my pocket to see a psychologist because for some reason, mental health isn’t something most medical aids cover. But it was well worth the expense.
Going through a quarter life crisis and experiencing depression isn’t unusual or something that you should go through alone. Family and friends can only do so much for you, but therapy provides objective, step-by-step help to walk you back to being mentally healthy.
*image from Unedited.