We are privileged to share blog postings from our Ambassador Jessie Close, Adrienne Gurman, Henry Boy Jenkins, and other guest bloggers. Please visit regularly as our content will be updated often.
Even though I’d been going to the ER regularly for panic attacks, I hadn’t accepted that I was struggling with mental illness on any level. Stigma confronted me at every turn; I was dealing with the same stereotypes that anyone influenced by culture would. I couldn’t make sense of my life.
Now, that Jackie is in a better place, she has begun looking into work possibilities. However, the task is daunting, especially because she fears losing her government benefits, which provide a small but steady income per month and most importantly coverage of her schizophrenia medication, which is essential for her health. Since eligibility for these benefits can be affected by income, Jackie doesn’t want to risk losing those benefits because she knows staying healthy is critical.
My own belief is that a brighter future entails less stigma, more respect for the field, stronger evidence-based research and practice, and greater accessibility to services for all. Maybe then can we truly begin to release the burden that mental illness places on our society.
I advocate for myself, and am comfortable with my diagnosis, but I’m reluctant to offer it up casually, being concerned that the stigma against it will hinder any success I might have had in making a new friend. I wish it were different, so I approach it as such. Most of the time. Self-stigma tends to be the one area where I falter. Unwittingly, I will derail my own train, partially due to an inherent shyness, and otherwise to a general discomfort in my own skin.
Taking care of mental health is not only for people with mental illness, either. Chronic stress causes just as much damage, if not, more, on our brains and our bodies. This is the kind of stress that seems to have no end, no solution, nor reward once overcome. Financial instability, toxic situations, bad relationships, and an endless workload can contribute to brain problems like confusion or memory loss, headaches, exhaustion, and a taxed immune system.
When I first started on my own health and fitness journey, I was battling severe depression and anxiety. It was probably one of the lowest points of my life. One night, as I was laying I bed, I remembered something my 7th grade health teacher shared with us many years ago.
If it is in my power to improve my situation, then I’m the only one that can do it. And to stay focused on the true meaning of gratefulness, I’ve challenged myself to take one picture a day of something I am really grateful for. Thus far, its resulted in everything from a bowl of almonds, rolling waves, and sunshine to pictures of my little one!
No mother is on the lookout for schizophrenia unless it is already in the family. It sneaks up on you. It’s cagey. It changes form, this disease, tricking you. This is the thing: if I made you a list of the red flag signs of serious mental illness, and another list of typical teenage behavior, they would be virtually the same list.