Ending the Stigma on Mental Illness

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? I’m particularly inclined to share about this for two reasons. One, mental health is one of those topics that has somehow become shameful and taboo – hence the need for a month dedicated to awareness. And two, like so many others, it’s something that I personally deal with every day of my life.

Not only has the stigma around mental illness made me hesitant to blog about it before, but there’s an entire other layer that feels odd to me. As I become more familiar with the conversation surrounding mental illness, I find that people tend to associate it with being weak, needy, and attention seeking. I think some of that comes from the blurry lines that exist between clinically diagnosed mental illnesses and very strong emotions. People get anxious and people get depressed, and these feelings are completely valid no matter where they fall in the scale of intensity.

So maybe people struggle with how to react with more serious cases because measuring one’s mental health is a very personal thing. It’s usually between you and a doctor, or therapist, or both. But these diagnosis are invisible to the human eye. And there are so many invisible illnesses that people are forced to personally validate everyday because of the assumed perceptions of what it means to be ill or differently abled. And that’s why having a month to shed light on mental illness is so important for us who struggle without outward signs of pain.

A lot of the time, we don’t see visible signs of mental illness the way we do with other health problems, but it took me a long time to realize that that doesn’t mean it don’t deserve the same amount of attention. In my personal experience, it took me a long time to accept that my anxiety and depression was indeed something to be diagnosed and treated. As anybody who has ever met me knows, I am an extremely passionate person. So when I started noticing particularly heightened feelings of anxiety, worry, sadness, and the like, I assumed it was all due to the fact that I very rarely experience “casual” emotions. I feel things very intensely, so I never assumed anything out of the ordinary when I would get chest pains during moments of uncertainty or lengthy periods of unhappiness after a bad day. Sure, these are symptoms that could happen to anybody – but when the triggers started becoming a little less predictable and a lot more frequent, I started wondering if there was anything I could do about it.

I am very open about my struggle with anxiety and depression, but for a while, it was hard for me to talk about. I live such a privileged life with amazing opportunities and am completely supported by incredible family and friends; for a while, all I could think about was how outsiders might not believe me when I said I had a mental illness. But then I thought about it this way: if I had a problem with my heart, or my leg, or my back, I would take medicine for it – so why wouldn’t I do the same thing for the chemical imbalances that were happening in my brain? Once that idea became clear, I decided to use it as an opportunity to speak out. I want people to know how comfortable I am with talking about my experiences with mental health because we all deserve to feel safe and comfortable about the things that make us who we are. I don’t think my mental illness defines me, but it’s definitely a big part of my life. You may not be able to see it, but plenty of people can certainly feel it, and that should be valid enough.

But remember, being comfortable with opening up takes time. If you’re struggling with figuring out your journey and aren’t sure where to go from here, hopefully one of these resources can point you on the right path ❤

Resources:

7 Cups of Tea – A website that allows you to speak anonymously with a trained active listener.

American Psychological Association – A resource for finding mental health care in your area.

Katie Morton – A licensed therapist YouTuber dedicated to discussing mental health and erasing stigma.

National Alliance on Mental Health – A resource guide for when you need help paying for medication

Advertisements