As we near the end of Mental Health Awareness month, we need to keep the conversation going. Ending the stigma that surrounds mental health starts with you, whether that means speaking out about your own experiences or just being there for others. It is always important to remember that everyone deserves to be listened to, supported, and celebrated. Here are just a few little reminders to remind you (yes, YOU) that, no matter what, you are worthy of respect even when it’s your own inner voice that’s cutting you down.

Your feelings are valid, even when you feel like they aren’t
All emotions are valid. Yes, all of them. Even the ones you feel ashamed or awkward for having. Let’s use an example: the funeral of a relative. If you didn’t cry, that’s valid. If you cried endlessly, that’s still valid. If you did some mix of both, that’s valid, too. No one has ever been you before, and no one ever will be, and there is no right or wrong in how you are feeling or how you express it as long as it keeps you and others safe mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and even spiritually. How we handle our emotions is much more important than which ones we feel. Even if everyone around you is feeling one way, it is more than okay for you to feel the complete opposite way. If you are having trouble understanding your emotions or they are causing you or others harm in any way, it is more than okay to talk to a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist. Good ones are there to help you understand yourself better, not to shame you about how you feel. Try to understand what you are feeling even when you can’t embrace it, and you will start to realize that even the confusing or frustrating feelings have purpose and are what? Valid.

Feelings are natural, just like this little heart-shaped leaf

Your story and experiences are important
Everything you have experienced that you want to share, deserves to be shared. Those things you want to keep private, deserve to be kept private. When people try to convince you not to speak or shame you into silence, you more often than not are threatening their perceived sense of control. If you talk about your own mental health, it may encourage others to talk about their own. If you talk about how the society in which you live is not working for you, it may expose cracks in the foundation. When confronted with things that make them question their own reality, many people tend to try and silence others instead of turn inward and reflect. But the more we speak up, the harder we are to ignore. The more we speak about our mental health, the more light gets shed on it. Every story and every experience, when shared, provides a brand new avenue to understanding, including yours. Who knows, you may just inspire someone else to share their story, even if they have been afraid to for their entire life. I know that I only realized I was a transman once I heard someone else share their story, and many other people have this experience, too. You could be that person for someone else, especially in situations where no one has spoken out before. Even just saying things out loud to yourself can change your entire outlook.

“So many of us have been there before.”

You’re not alone, even when you feel that way
Even if you are the first person, ever, to experience a general situation, you will not be the last. Even though you are the only person who could ever understand the specific situation you are experiencing, someone else can relate and offer at the very least an understanding and nonjudgmental ear. Even when you are sitting alone in a dark room, wondering how things could get any worse or how anyone could ever understand, you are not alone. There is someone out there asking those exact same questions, feeling that loneliness that seeps into the pit of your stomach and doesn’t seem to want to let go. Even if we’re not there now, so many of us have been there before. Even when you think no one cares, there is someone who you may not even realize is thinking about you, thinking about you. I know it may sound cliché, but sometimes that’s what happens with the truth. If you’re reading this, you know at least one person cares about you: me. You may not know me or you might, and I may not know you. But I still hope you are doing well and I still know that you can get through whatever it is that is dragging you down.

You are not a burden, even when things get heavy
I struggle with this myself, very often. I feel like, if things are going on that are difficult, it’s better for the people in my life if I turn away from them and try to carry it all. More often than not, this actually leaves those who care for you to pick up the pieces when you collapse under the weight of everything you try and shield them from. Caring for your people means including them in your struggles and being vulnerable and honest with them whenever you can be safely and positively. To those who care, you are not a burden, you are not an obligation, and you are not a problem. Sometimes they may not be able to show you their support in a way you can understand or that works for you, but don’t think that means you are somehow “too much”. You are never too much, whether at your peak or when you are farthest down in the valley.

And last but not least…you are worthy of love, and you are loved. No exceptions. No conditions. Even if everyone in your world has tried to tell you otherwise, you are so worthy of radical love and acceptance. Even if you can’t love yourself right now, you are still worthy of love, including love from others. 

Thanks for joining in the conversation! If you missed part one, head on back and give it a read! If you want to know a little bit about my own mental health journey, you can read my article “How Visibility Saved my Life”. Need a little more help?……if you or someone you know is in need of assistance, these places may be able to help:

(The following information provided by The National Center for Transgender Equality)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline
24/7 hotline, staffed by trained individuals, for those in suicidal crisis or emotional distress
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Crisis hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255); 888-­628­-9454 (en español)

Crisis Text Line
Free, 24/7 support for people in crisis
https://www.crisistextline.org/
Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor

The Trevor Project
Crisis intervention and mental health services for those ages 13­-24
http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
Crisis hotline: 866­-488­-7386 (for those ages 13­-24)

National Sexual Assault Hotline
24/7 hotline, staffed by trained individuals, for those experiencing sexual assault or violence
https://www.rainn.org/ or https://www.rainn.org/es (en español)
Crisis hotline: 800­-656-­HOPE (4673)

The National Domestic Violence Hotline
24/7 confidential crisis line for those experiencing domestic violence
http://www.thehotline.org/
800-799-SAFE (7233)

Communities Against Hate
National coalition documenting hate incidents
Report an incident at: http://communitiesagainsthate.org/report
Report and get help at: 1-844-9-NO-HATE

TransLifeline
https://www.translifeline.org
US Hotline: 877-565-8860
Canada Hotline: 877-330-6366

SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline
Peer support and local resources for older adults
1-888-234-SAGE

LGBT National Hotline
Peer support and local resources for all ages
1-888-843-4564

Dakota, or Koty, is a 26 year old transman who lives in PA with his fiancée, their three cats (Rory, Rooney, and Remy), and their betta fish (Aang). He is currently finishing his Master's degree in Community Psychology and Social Change at Penn State Harrisburg.