PEOPLE is launching a year-long initiative to encourage readers to have vital conversations about their mental health. Our Let’s Talk About It campaign will highlight the stories of both ordinary people and celebrities who have dealt with mental illness and provide resources about where to get help and how to offer support to others.
As more stars are being candid about their struggles with mental health, Lauv has joined the conversation and continues to open up about his experience.
In a post he shared on Twitter, the “I Like Me Better” singer, 25, revealed that he was dealing with a “case of intense obsessive anxiety and depression.” With support and encouragement from loved ones, Lauv decided to see a psychiatrist. In a heartfelt essay written exclusively for PEOPLE, he details his journey dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. —Darlene Aderoju
Why is it that our generation seems to be more depressed and anxious than ever before? Or is it just that we’re talking more about it now?
Whether the latter is the case or it’s truly a result of the life we’re living — a life full of distractions, constant information overload, social media syndrome (constant self-comparison, heightened insecurity, an unquenchable need for approval, and the endless dopamine loop) — it’s clear that this topic is more top of mind than ever.
We see more and more people opening up about their own experiences and encouraging others to do the same.
I was extremely nervous to open up about my struggles, especially before I was diagnosed with OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression. This was largely due to a voice in my head that constantly told me my experiences were invalid.
In reality, I had spent almost the entire month of January in bed, trapped by obsessive negative thoughts and the need to organize them. My anxiety was at an all-time high, perpetually making me feel like life was on the brink of imploding.
But in my head, I thought I just had to think my way out of it. In reality, I had fallen out of love with everything I used to care about, including the one thing that always brought me purpose: music.
I was living with a vague, haunting sense of disconnection from everyone else (almost as if a blanket had been placed between me and the world). But in my head, I just had to find the one fix (which, by the way, was an ever-changing, made-up idea I had created in my mind).
Distraught and exhausted, I decided to let my friends and family in. And that helped a lot. But after weeks of endlessly cycling conversations with my friends, family and team, I realized I was stuck.
The thing with OCD is that talking about your obsessions can feel really good — like really, really good — because that is the compulsion: the act of relief. But that relief only lasts for a moment. Then, it’s back to obsessing.
I kept trying to pinpoint the fix for my sadness, but one of my best friends, who had his own struggles with bipolar disorder, told me I might “just actually be depressed.” I didn’t understand what he meant, and I shrugged it off. It got worse.
At that point, my sister, who also had her own stint with extreme anxiety, was begging me to go see a psychiatrist. I knew therapy would be part of it, but medication? Reluctantly, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist.
I was diagnosed with OCD and clinical depression and was urged to get on medication. I could write a whole other article about my struggles with the decision to get on medication and the ups and downs of it all, but for the sake of staying on topic I’ll just say: in combination with therapy and a consistent practice of meditation, they worked really well for me.
As I started finding clarity and stability, I decided to open up to the world about my story. Growing up in a family where drawing attention to yourself was not highly encouraged, I was really nervous.
I began beating myself up before I even did anything. But after going through what I went through and having reflected on how the people around me who shared their struggles really helped me, I felt like I had to tell my story.
Still, as I was posting the note on my Instagram, I found myself coming up with every possible negative comment in my head, every possible reason that I was actually a fake and that I should just shut up. Luckily, I didn’t.
Looking back, I wonder if this feeling is the very thing that has historically kept people guarded. Perhaps this is the reason why there is such a prevalence of depression and anxiety, why the male stereotype has sustained emotional stoicism, why there is an abundance of people who feel lost, out of touch with themselves, and at worst, maybe it’s part of the reason why there are so many cases of unexplained suicide.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve undervalued emotional vulnerability for too long. Perhaps we’re so used to being emotionally out of touch that, when we experience moments of being in touch, it’s frightening. Perhaps we’re so used to dealing with it all ourselves, that when the opportunity arises to open up, we feel shame. Or we simply don’t know how.
So, while it might start to seem that the increasing conversations about anxiety and depression are becoming cliché, we have to remember what’s really happening here. We are creating a new world where speaking up about one’s own problems is a good thing. A world where we find synchronicity with ourselves and analyze our feelings and experiences openly before they become unmanageable and life-destroying.
Could it be said that, in opening up about our mental health, we are facing a universal fear — the fear of not being accepted — and training ourselves to become less afraid of vulnerability in the future? Is it possible that we are creating a roadmap for a stronger generation and even stronger generations to come? I think so.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.