Today, I graduated college. It took me 10 years but I finally did it. I contemplated writing this post, I don’t usually like to overshare on social media. But if I can in any way help destigmatize mental illness by giving it a face, then it’s worth it. Ever since I can remember, I found myself doing things in numbers. When I was in middle school I had my first panic attack. Soon I stopped leaving my house. If I went anywhere except school I would feel sheer terror, hyperventilate and cry. my confined life made me depressed. I slept all the time and thought about not wanting to live. I was diagnosed with ocd, panic disorder and depression and put on antidepressants but continued to struggle. I hung in for a few semesters of college until things unraveled and I found myself at a residential treatment center where they diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. But it would take years before a bout of self harm led me to my amazing Doctor. With the help of electro convulsive shock therapy (yes like in one flew over the cukoos nest but modernized and regulated) and proper medication, today I am finally thriving and living out my dream as an artist and found my soulmate. My point to all of this is that mental illness is real, and it essentially stole the early years of my life. I didn’t choose to be bipolar the way someone doesn’t choose to get cancer. I was lucky enough to have amazing parents who supported me and never gave up. But many people don’t have family or access to the proper resources. Many of them end up in jail and treated like animals. Please, the next time you see a homeless man talking to himself on the street, instead of writing him off as being a drug addict or “crazy” consider they might be suffering from a mental illness and weren’t as lucky as me. It’s really scary to be sharing this but staying silent doesn’t lead to change. Thanks for reading.