May is Mental Health Awareness month.
This is a topic very close to my heart, as many of you know I live with major depressive and generalized anxiety disorders. One of the hardest parts of dealing with mental illness is the lack of understanding by a large number of the world’s population. It is treated like a dirty secret, like it is something to be ashamed of, or something that makes you “defective.” These are stigmas that need to be eradicated.
I’ve learned that it is nearly impossible to explain mental illness to those who have never experienced it. They will tell you there is nothing to be anxious or depressed about, and you should be more grateful for what you have. They will tell you to take a shower or a walk and shake it off. These are very ignorant things to say to someone who is suffering. We do not choose to feel this way, in fact, we would give anything to have a brain that functions normally.
I cannot speak for everyone who has a mental illness, as it affects everyone differently and there are a multitude of different diagnoses. I speak from my own experiences, some of which I have written about in other posts. I was diagnosed as a senior in high school, though I remember struggling since I was in third grade. Even back then I knew something was wrong with me, something was different about me, but I didn’t know what it was or how to ask for help. My parents thought I was just a sensitive little girl, nothing to be concerned about. I remember when I finally told my parents I needed help, talk about a difficult conversation. I felt like I was losing my mind, a level of grief that felt insurmountable, and finally I just couldn’t take it anymore. I still didn’t know what kind of help I needed, I just knew I could no longer go through it alone. Luckily I have amazing parents and they got me into treatment immediately. They didn’t understand what I was going through, but they were supportive and encouraging, which was really all they could do to help me.
I struggled with all relationships; with my sister, my peers, and yes my parents as well. My emotions were all magnified; I was sad, angry, fearful, jealous, sometimes paranoid. Over the years many friends have found my illness too difficult to handle. In my experience, when my depression gets rough my friends get going. And I can hardly blame them. Now I have very few friends, but they accept me for everything I am and everything I am not. I have trouble connecting with new people because I fear they won’t understand me. I have trouble with work relationships, I’m paranoid that they don’t like me and talk behind my back. It can be truly debilitating. Sometimes my feelings are so powerful they even scare me. I still wonder how my husband is able to love me despite my “crazy,” but he does, and his support is invaluable to me.
I am sharing some of my story with you in hopes of enlightening those who lack understanding, in hopes of letting others who suffer from mental illness know they are not alone, and in hopes of spreading awareness. I want people to understand that we are people too, we are not defective, our path is not easy but it makes us stronger. We deserve to be treated with respect and compassion like everyone else.
Thank you for listening… XOXO