A side portrait of a head with thoughts going out of it.

Accepting my mental health diagnosis as part of my identity has been a long, winding journey. It can be painful and difficult to acknowledge our struggles with mental health. For so long, I tried to push away my feelings of anxiety, depression, OCD, and ADHD, as if there was something wrong with me for feeling the way I did. But ignoring the problem didn’t make it go away — in fact, it only made matters worse. Over time, I started to realize these feelings were masking something else. Behind them were the stories I told myself about not being good or worthy.

I learned early on to cope through avoidance — avoiding solutions to problems instead of finding solutions, avoiding connecting with people because I felt like an outsider, and avoiding how uncomfortable it can be to look in the mirror and see the person in front of me.

It’s taking a lot of hard work to feel content, and I know there’s still so much more to learn. I am realizing that accepting my mental health struggles is critical for me to be able to move forward toward healing and coping. Acknowledging my diagnosis as part of who I am rather than viewing it as something wrong with me is beginning to bring a small amount of peace in how I relate to myself and how others relate to me as well. Now, when I have moments where I feel like giving up or letting those negative stories take over again — instead of trying to run away from them — I sit with those feelings until they pass. It also allows me to prioritize self-care better to manage my mental health daily.

Nevertheless, reaching the point of acceptance isn’t easy — many times, it feels nearly impossible when faced with overwhelming symptoms or life events that seem too difficult or painful. What gets me through are small victories achieved by showing love and care to myself each day. Taking moments out of my day for self-care helps immensely — things like going for walks, meditating, writing down positive affirmations, or talking about my feelings instead of bottling them up make such a huge difference in managing my mental health over time.

It’s important to remember that we are not alone in our struggles; many people around us share similar experiences but may never open up about it yet due to fear or shame. Whether you choose therapy, medication, or lifestyle changes (or a combination), reaching out for help is one of the most courageous things you can do for yourself when struggling with mental health issues — despite all these challenges, we still have the power within us all to heal ourselves from even the toughest roadblocks life throws at us.