One of the contributing factors to the stigma of mental illness is that it’s often not readily visible. Whether we’ll admit it or not, we are a society that likes to see it to believe it. When was the last time you heard “but she doesn’t LOOK sick”? Or the converse “she looks SO depressed”.
There is hope and there is recovery in this journey with mental illness. There is strength in numbers and friends are made when people face adversity together. Join your local NAMI-BC2M Walk and find your team. It might be a sunny day but there are no guarantees. If not we will finish our walk anyway and we will finish it together.
Why is it that in the 21st century, despite some very important and (reasonably) successful battles for equality, we still have painful inequalities and double standards? You’d think by now we’d be past this, but when it comes to illnesses, there is a huge chasm that needs to be closed.
Since I began speaking openly about depression and anxiety, one of the greatest rewards has been the feedback from friends—and strangers—who’ve thanked me for helping them know they’re not alone with their struggles. When I hear that I’ve given them the words, vocabulary and confidence to talk about their own personal struggles, even those they’ve never shared before, I feel a sense of purpose I never knew existed.
In reality, acknowledging my humanity, reaching out, admitting to my ‘dark side’ helps not only me, but it helps others. For if I reach out, I’m giving others permission to do the same. And I’m giving my friends an opportunity to be helpful. I know that one of the best things I can do to feel better is to help others, share my experiences, and offer hope.
As a family, we have hashed out many things around this table where I’m sitting, one of the more dramatic being that I had to be admitted into a hospital for my bipolar disorder. This table also heard the conversation surrounding my son, Calen, and when he had to go to the hospital for what we didn’t yet know was his schizoaffective disorder.
Last night I told one of my closest friends that I’ve hit a low point. It sounds strange, but to be able to say that to someone who gets it, and doesn’t try to talk me out of it, is truly priceless. She didn’t say, “but look at all of the good things in your life” or “you just need some rest.” She let me say it, without judgment, without grimacing, without telling me that she only wants good news from me, especially since I’ve been chock full of bad news lately.
It’s been a rough week. Mental illness has again reared its ugly head, this time in the form of a deep, insidious depression, lurking, creeping, stealthily wrapping its tentacles around my daughter, dragging her down, dimming her spark, holding her back from the things she enjoys.
Exercise and keeping in shape are key elements in the fight against depression. Maybe I’m just afraid to commit to a routine because if I don’t follow it, I’ll feel like I’ve failed. Just hearing the term “working out” causes me anxiety. It just makes me feel so pressured when someone asks “so where do you work out?”