This is a tough subject to tackle, because I’m not a doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist or any sort of health professional. I’m not qualified to diagnose whether someone is clinically depressed or they’re just being a diva millennial who prefers self-medicating over taking responsibility and showing up to work or school.
But what I do know – and it’s a shame that it takes a rash of celebrity suicides to shed light on this topic – is that mental illness, depression and anxiety don’t discriminate. Just because someone is wealthy and successful, they might be sad. Just because someone is in a relationship, they might be lonely. Just because someone is employed, they might be struggling financially.
My personal brand of crazy is probably along the lines of mild obsessive-compulsive disorder. I can’t stand for a bed to be unmade when I leave the house. I don’t understand why a person would put a plate in the sink when the dishwasher is right there. I like the toilet paper roll to pull from the top, not the bottom. My DVDs are alphabetized and my books are organized by genre. When I get dressed in the morning, I take a top from the left side of the closet rack. After it’s been laundered, it goes to the end of the line on the right side of the rack.
So when someone takes a shower and throws their towel on the floor, naturally that makes me want to scream. But it doesn’t make me want to hang myself. Again, what I deal with is mild, and I wouldn’t even call it something that I suffer from. Basically I’m just annoying to the people around me because I like things a certain way. I’m working on learning to adapt because I feel pretty strongly that you can’t change other people but you can change yourself.
I get a little claustrophobic in crowds and anxious about talking to people I don’t know – you’d think 20 years of being a reporter would ease that discomfort; it’s helped, but I still hate talking on the phone. I talk to my mom a few times a week; my dear friend Megan calls me every Sunday and Blayne usually lets me know when he’s leaving work on weekdays so we can make dinner plans. That’s about it for my non-work phone conversations.
But this isn’t really about me. If I break out in hives over the fact that there are three half-full milk cartons in the refrigerator, I can’t even imagine what life is like for people who have severe anxiety and depression. Actor Robin Williams, handbag designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain recently took their lives, even though they appeared to be thriving. Something’s wrong with that. And even though many rock star and celebrity deaths are classified as accidental overdoses, I believe that if you’re ingesting enough drugs and alcohol to kill you, you likely have some serious internal struggles.
Again, I’m no expert, but what I do know is that we need to be better friends. We need to be present in the lives of our children. If we have a concern about someone’s behavior, we need to address it. We need to stop chalking up irritability and isolation as “being a millennial.”
I’m concerned, and I think we all should be circling the wagons to figure out what to do about this.
April Towery is the managing editor of The Sealy News. She can be reached at 979-885-3562 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.