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Walker strives to break stigma


     It can be hard to face mental health problems, especially without a support system. Senior Lily Walker, who has long struggled with anxiety and depression, has had to realize that her conditions are not just a season of her life that will pass. Due to the large stigma around mental health, it was initially challenging for Walker to be open to friends about her struggles.

     “For a really long time, I didn’t tell people about [my mental health struggles] because it still felt like something that I should be ashamed of,” 


Photo by Sarah Caviness

Walker said. “I was afraid to be vulnerable and share that with my closest friends because I didn’t want this image that I had worked so hard to create to be fractured in their minds.”

     Walker desires to constantly be productive, even though she often lacks motivation. Holding herself to this impossible standard has resulted in self-worth issues.

     “I really struggle with my productivity correlating with my value as a person,” Walker said. “I feel like if I’m not doing something at all hours of the day, if I’m not getting perfect grades or being the best friend ever or being the most amazing girlfriend or sister or daughter, that my value as a human is null and void.” 

     She knows that mental health struggles are not a simple fix; there is no way to make them conveniently disappear. 

     “It’s a part of who I am and it’s something I’m always going to have to deal with,” Walker said. “It sounds really somber, but that’s just another obstacle I have to work through.”

     One major way that Walker has been able to work through her struggles is through therapy. It has not completely eradicated the problem, but it has taught her how to cope with it and figure out how to adapt around it. Therapy has made such a significant and positive impact on Walker, that she recommends for everyone to at least try it.

     “I am a huge advocate of therapy; it is so helpful and I think even if you are completely ‘normal’, you still could use therapy,” Walker said. “Not only has it helped me get through tough times in my life, [but] I also feel like I am just a way better person now.”

     Because Walker understands that therapy is not attainable for every person, she also recommends utilizing online resources and podcasts. Every person may have a unique way of coping during a hard time, and Walker found that going out of her comfort zone is most beneficial for her.

     “I have found for me self-care is things that make me uncomfortable, like I started going to the gym because my therapist recommended it; it’s a huge endorphin boost,” Walker said. “It also has helped my body image a huge amount.”

     Walker has also found comfort in talking to her family about her problems. She feels that her family is very supportive and she does not have to ask twice for help when she needs it. In particular, her mother has been a huge encouragement.

     “My mom grew up with a lot of the problems that I am experiencing, and so my mom’s always been my best friend,” Walker said. “I struggle so hard with achieving this literally impossible standard, and just hearing somebody be like ‘you don’t have to do anything to be valuable, you don’t have to do anything to be worthy, you just have to exist,’ I was like this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.”

     Struggles with mental health are certainly not uncommon, however, many people have a hard time finding a safe space to discuss their burdening feelings. As someone who understands these feelings, Walker wants others to know that they are not alone.

     “I’m very much an open book, I will answer any question anybody asks me ever,” Walker said. “[My biggest goal is] just to make people feel like no matter what, even if I’m a complete and total stranger to them, they’ve still got a friend somewhere out there that can help them.”

     Walker wants others to realize that even if they aren’t currently the versions of themselves that they want to be, they are not any less valuable. She believes allowing herself grace is valuable and necessary.

     “Trust yourself, trust that you will get through it,” Walker said.

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