By Rachel Gold
In May, for mental health awareness month, I published an article that explained my experiences with mental illness. It explains, that, even while I always appear to be happy and successful, I still struggle.
I wrote, “…there came a time where I could no longer pinpoint the sadness, the anger, the racing heartbeat, and the whirlwind of thoughts in my mind at 4am… I just wanted to stop feeling this way. Even still, I tried to convince myself I was okay. I still smiled. I still had days that I genuinely loved life with all my heart. I was still doing well in school and having fun with my friends. If I had things to be happy about and things to be grateful for, there was no way I could be depressed, right? Wrong.”
Straight forward: depression and anxiety suck. It sucks to find yourself in a place that you can’t get out of. It sucks to not know what’s happening and feel a loss of control over your own brain. It sucks to feel sad and anxious when you want to be happy and laugh-to need help to figure out how to do these things again. BUT, depression and anxiety do not define me or what I am capable of achieving. They have contributed to my strength and ability to ask for help and to admit that I am not always okay. They have allowed me to spread mental health awareness and be an advocate determined to end the stigma surrounding mental illness by starting conversations and openly discussing my experience.
“My intention in writing this wasn’t to gain sympathy or pity, but rather, to help validate peoples’, or even just one person’s, feelings.”
Little did I know that one article and a few Instagram posts would open a door for so many people struggling–so many people who just wanted to talk and to feel like their feelings were okay.
After the article received such positive feedback, I wanted to do more. It continues to be clear to me that our society has so much to learn about mental illness. People with mental illnesses are in fact capable of contributing to society, of being happy, and of functioning typically, contrary to what the stigma suggests. So, I reached out to my Facebook friends asking if anyone was interested in helping me with a mental health awareness campaign, and continued to be amazed at the responses. That is when #Itsokayproject began to evolve as an avenue to stop the stigma and raise awareness about mental health and mental illness.
I was once asked to share a moment when I coached someone through something. Writing this article and planning this project have allowed me so many of these moments for which I will be forever grateful. As people have discussed with me their vulnerabilities and fears, some people who I had never before met, I have been able to practice all that I have learned through my own struggles while spreading love and support to others.
So, while struggling with a mental illness is not easy for anyone, it has helped me become a support system to all who need it–to those who did not realize they needed it or to those who once feared sharing. My experiences have allowed me to spread compassion while addressing the stigma to which too many of us fall victim. My article and this project, completed by an incredible group of people, have allowed me to spread the message that, while it is okay to not be okay, when you are not okay, you are never alone.
To those who are struggling: you are NOT in this fight alone. You are not crazy for your feelings and I am HERE for you-any of you; always. You matter.
- Project by: Rachel Gold
- Photography by: Timmy Harris and Jeremy Bloom
- Director/DP/Editor: Jeremy Bloom
- Rachel Gold
- Alice Kanev
- Allison Hensel
- Annie Staskunas
- Cristina Vasquez
- Freddy Gold
- Hannah Miller
- Joey Slater
- Kaila Ruppel
- Libby Carso
- Madeline Lerche
- Marissa Schatz
- Meghan Ammentorp
- Stephanie Daub
- Timmy Harris
- Match MG Chicago
- Jerry Rig Productions
- Gary Curtin
- Haoua Lee
- Paul Kreuter