I was taught to be a good provider, work hard, and things will work themselves out. I struggled with my emotions as a youth, and teenager, and wasn’t quite sure which emotions were appropriate, and which were not. I realize now, that all emotions are to be valued and given equal weight, when they arise, something I think I always knew, but didn’t acknowledge until I was in my 50’s. I was forced to acknowledge in 2012.
Stigma exists. Two out of three people who are affected by mental illness don’t seek help or treatment. The day I received treatment was the day I took my first step towards recovery. Although some days I tend to take a step back, I know I will wake up the next morning and take two steps forward.
For example, while I was feeling extreme joy for my family’s experience that day and words like depression could not have been further from my mind, it did not change the fact that it was still a part of me. Sometimes it’s present, sometimes it’s dormant, but it’s always there and I am learning to take ownership over it equal to all the other parts of me.
I have realized that many with a mental illness are the strong ones. We are the ones who deal with something very difficult on a daily basis and yet we conquer, overcome, and in the end thrive. I refuse to be devoured because I am the lion seeking to devour the fear and the hardships that I face ahead. We are the king of the jungle because time and again we devour our fear, we devour our sadness, we devour our daily struggles with a ferocity many without an illness can not.
There is hope. and when you think everyone would be better off without you around or wouldn’t miss you if you weren’t alive anymore, think again, someone wants you someone needs you and someone out there lives for you. to me those people were my parents. People would tell me not to be selfish and commit suicide but as i thought about it i wasn’t being selfish i was doing what i thought i needed to do for me and me only for once in my life. i put me first for once. luckily i got the help i needed. ever day is a struggle by i will get through it and so will you.
Our culture is changing in regards to its view of mental illness, but we have a long way to go. There will be people who don’t understand. People who say the wrong thing whether out of spite or malice. If you let fear of what they will say dictate your life, then in a way stigma wins. I will teach my daughter that it is the people who love you that matter. The people who are there for you when you feel empty and tired are the ones who have earned the right to speak to your heart.
I wasn’t diagnosed with having panic attacks/anxiety until the age of 13. Since then, I’ve been on and off different medications and therapy for this. But in my opinion, nothing helps more than the medication & counseling. One without the other doesn’t cut it for me unfortunately that’s how bad it is for me. I can’t even experience ‘good stress’ as in going away on a vacation, going to a friend’s wedding, waiting to see one of my favorite bands.
I share this because I am a professional working with people living with severe mental illness and I still struggle to practice what I preach. I consider myself an advocate but the stigma around mental illness continues to affect my relationships. I encourage everyone to share their stories to find support and especially to remind those who have a loved one with mental illness that they also need to take care of their own mental health. I seriously believe we can end stigma if we step up, share our stories and not be afraid to talk about the taboo subjects.
I only disclosed my diagnosis to maybe 2 or 3 people and even then I didn’t explain the extent of the situation. I was constantly trying to prove that I was just a normal happy girl, even though I was dying inside. Last year, I decided to stop fighting it. I disclosed my diagnosis to all of my family and friends and was both humbled and surprised by the amount of support that I received. This was the best decision I could have ever made. Now that I am able to be open and honest about my diagnosis, I feel like I can live my true self. I can show the world the real me.