I've wavered for some time over whether or not this is something I'd ever want to mention here, but recently I've felt inclined to be candid in the hope that I could open up a discussion on this topic and advocate for normalizing the stigmas attached. Several years ago I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (stemming from events I'd prefer to keep private). This is not a diagnosis I've ever resolved to identify with, but more-so something I chose to combat/overcome. I suffered from daily panic attacks, hypervigilance, and insomnia among other physical ramifications. It took years to work through a lot of that pain, and most days I feel strong/capable, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that I still struggle through periods of residual anxiety. There is a lot of negative connotation surrounding the term "mental illness". I've found that people can be dismissive once someone is no longer "fun", "spontaneous", "happy". Society has taught us that mental illness equates with imperfection, with "brokenness". This is not the case. People who suffer from illnesses like ptsd, anxiety, depression (or any number of mental illnesses) are still trying to live their best lives, and are not "unwilling" to participate. They are more-than willing, but they are battling physical/psychological reactions beyond their control. On social media I post content that reflects what I choose to highlight--moments where I feel genuinely happy. But we all have baggage, stress, things we wish we could alter about ourselves/our lives. Perfection is a myth. Never allow yourself to feel less-than by comparing yourself to other people. You are more than a diagnosis, an analysis, or an event that has happened to you. Who you are is measured in how you love, how you choose to move forward, and your willingness to accept yourself without judgement. Be brave enough to love yourself, because that freedom can help you build yourself up against any challenge you're facing. To anyone who took the time to read this, I am so humbled that you chose to do so-- & to anyone who has felt at all connected to what I've said here, it is my greatest hope that in reading this you feel less alone.