Mental illness, as a whole, is stigmatized by society. Society believes mental illness is a made up thing and that people are finding reasons to either get prescription drugs or receive extra accommodations or some bullshit like that. Our society doesn’t look kindly on those who claim mentally ill. It is seen as a weakness and is unacceptable.
It drives me batty with how people are so quick to judge us. Yes, it is something that can’t be seen on an MRI or ultrasound, but does that make it any less real or debilitating than a broken leg or some immune disease? The answer is no, it doesn’t.
In my family, I grew up not talking about my feelings. It wasn’t done. I didn’t think it was wrong or abnormal until I was older. In high school I started having slight anxiety and some depressive episodes but I just pawned it off on teenage angst and hormones. It came to a head my freshman year of college when my roommate literally saved my life. I had been having panic attacks, constant anxiety and worry, depressed moods for months, and even physical symptoms due to the anxiety.
But with all that going on, I still refused to acknowledge that I had any problems. I didn’t want to be seen as damaged or crazy because of my mental illness. I didn’t want people to identify me as my mental illness. I feared mockery, judgement, stigma, etc. However, I couldn’t hide it for long. After my roommate found me, I knew then I had to come clean. Not only to myself but other people, mostly my family.
Telling my parents what I had been dealing with for years was painful, yet it felt like letting go of a rope I hadn’t known I’d been holding on to. The hold it had on my heart let go and I could breath just a bit better. I could think a tad bit clearer. The weight that was forcing me under water was just a little lighter. It took a while to explain and for them to understand and come to terms with this secret that’d I hid very well over the years. There was lots of crying, explaining, and questions.
I may be writing this blog talking about my mental illness and I may be very open about a lot of things, but there are a few things I’ve kept hidden except from my anchors. They know the gritty details and thoughts and feelings I wish I could forget or push away. They know every aspect and can still look at me with love in their eyes.
I wish people could understand that this isn’t a choice. I would not chose to have a panic attack. I would love not to be so anxious that it makes me physically ill. I wouldn’t choose to be depressed for months on end and question if living is even worth the hassle. I want people to understand that I did NOT chose this in any way. Did any cancer patient choose to get sick? Do people choose to have a heart attack or stroke? Do people decide the perfect moment to break a bone or sprain something? The answer is no. They don’t. It’s the same with mental illness. We don’t choose this. Why would we want to? I would not wish these illnesses on my worst enemy (I’d rather wish they would have the feeling of constantly walking on Legos, but that’s just me).
It took me years to admit I was suffering, let alone ask for any kind of help. It takes courage to admit you need help. It takes balls to go to a therapist or psychiatrist. Taking medication is a life altering event, and should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor, yourself, and if you are living with a spouse, family, or whoever. Some medications may have side effects and you can have your friends and family monitor you as well. I had my roommates look out for me and any thing strange while I was on meds. I did have some side effects that caused me to stop taking the medication.
Many people may not even be ready for medication, and that’s okay! Don’t think for one second you have to immediately take any kind of medication. Talk about all your options! There are some wonderful holistic methods of coping that have proven to really help people. You need to find what is best for you and your mind set.
Society, I say, can go fuck itself for saying we are weak. Waking up day after day, even though you feel like there is nothing to live for, takes immense amounts of courage and strength. Taking care of yourself when you don’t see the point is strength. Going to work, doing your job, and excelling when you feel like Death just ran you over is strength. Shaking off that panic attack and going about your day, whatever it may be, is strength. Don’t you dare tell me we are weak.
It is unacceptable to tell us this is a choice or it’s all made up.