Mental Health Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness month.

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 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.

Depression is debilitating.

Depression is debilitating.

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

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4 thoughts on “Mental Health Awareness

  1. Very interesting article. I found something you might want to play with. There’s the idea that you shouldn’t be ashamed of things like mental illness, but I wonder what the assumption is there. Is the assumption “it’s not something I can control and therefore shame is a waste of time” or is it “mental illness is just as good as not mental illness?”

    I ask because here:

    “something that makes you “defective.” – discriminatory assumption.

    “we would give anything to have a brain that functions normally.” – your assumption.

    It sounds like you want to believe mental illness is just as good as not mental illness, but actually think it’s awful and, though I might be wrong, it feels like there’s some shame baked in as well.

    If I’m right, I would ask you if there is a point to feeling ashamed of things you can’t control. If the answer is no, then it’s a wonderful and liberating excuse to say “to hell with it, I’ve got better things to do than feel ashamed.”

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    • Thank you for commenting, you have an interesting point of view. I agree that one cannot control whether they have mental illness or not, and I agree that being ashamed of it is “a waste of time” persay. However, I do not think it is quite as simple as saying “to hell with it.” Feelings of shame can come from many different places; the news, co-workers, even friends and family. Mental illness is often misunderstood and people can be nasty when speaking of things they do not understand. If your parents tell you that being depressed is stupid and a sign of weakness, how are you going to feel about your own depression? When the news talks about restricting your right to bear arms because you are diagnosed with a mental illness, should I feel a sense of pride knowing society wants to strip me of my constitutional rights?

      In regards to your comment “you want to believe mental illness is just as good as not mental illness” I am not sure I understand your meaning. I do believe that a person with mental illness is no better or no worse than a person without mental illness. Every person has their struggles and problems, both good and bad things about them, whether they are mentally ill or not. Mental illness is awful, my point is everyone deserves respect and kindness, whether they are mentally ill or not.

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  2. “If your parents tell you that being depressed is stupid and a sign of weakness, how are you going to feel about your own depression?”

    That’s awful. I would lose a ton of respect for my parents if they said that. I’d probably get pretty nasty to them, as well. Honestly, I think I’d feel betrayed, extremely betrayed, more than anything else.

    As for my comment, I was asking for clarification. You describe a “defective” view of people with mental illness as discriminatory. You then say that you’d “fix” your brain in a second if you could. This struck me as contradictory. As if, “I would love to fix this thing that isn’t broken.”

    I was wondering if this apparent contradiction arose from a subconscious shame (“I’d fix it in a second if I could”) butting up against a conscious desire to be proud (“mental illness is not a defect”). I could of course be wrong, and I’d much rather hear your explanation for the apparent contradiction than continue theorizing on my own.

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    • Good point well made my friend. I can see why this appears contradictory. Mental illness may well be a “defect” but that is a matter of opinion. Personally, I do feel defective in some ways, but I do not want to be treated as such. Would anyone want to be treated as defective, under any circumstances?

      To answer your question, I do feel shame regarding my mental health and I am fully conscious of it. So yes, I would fix my brain if I could. It causes me undue stress and emotional pain that I would love to be rid of. I am not proud of having mental health problems, but it is a part of who I am. In my original post I was trying to spread awareness and create a dialogue, and I have succeeded in creating a dialogue! In hindsight, I probably should have taken more time to write my post, to make my message more clear.

      Thank you for your thoughts and insights 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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