On January 25, 2017, the Twitter world blew up in conversation about mental illnesses all under the hashtag “#BellLetsTalk”. Millions of people varying in age, participated in an effort to break the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses and those that suffer from them. Despite depression being the leading cause of disability in America, there’s still this negativity; this shame that comes with it. Despite it being one of the most common illnesses, there are still so many people taking their own lives and engaging is self-harming behaviors because they don’t feel safe taking advantage of the resources available. Why not? Why don’t people suffering from depression, addiction, anxiety, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. reach out? To therapists? Their parents? Friends? Teachers?
Shame. Because “seeing a therapist” makes you feel crazy. Saying out loud what you feel in your head makes the pain real, which is a hard reality to face. And people with depression don’t see it as the disease that it is because it has a way of making it difficult to really see what’s going on; to see that there is actually something wrong. It convinces them that things will never change; it will never get better. Which then makes it hard for people to take themselves seriously. They blame themselves. They avoid professional help because they feel they’re “being dramatic”. We downplay our problems, and we think we should be able to handle it on our own.
We can’t control it when our bodies turn dysfunctional, whether it’s Cancer, IBD, tumors, or even Arthritis. But for some reason, we feel like we should be able to control the chemical makeup of our brains and how we handle difficult situations? Why are we expected to bear that responsibility? Our brains are organs just like the rest. They get sick. They experience trauma. They require medication. Sometimes for a short period of time, sometimes long-term, depending on the severity- just. like. any. other. organ. and. any. other. illness.
The thing is though, mental illnesses aren’t physical. It’s not something you can see, which leaves the door open for multiple interpretations. A hundred people can look at a broken leg and agree that, yes, his leg is broken. But if a hundred people see a person suffering from the inside, in pieces, completely turned around in their own head, there are a hundred different opinions on what’s really going on. This leads to the shame. Embarrassment. Feeling like we can’t say out loud that there is something wrong. We’re afraid of public ridicule. That someone will brush off and laugh at our suffering.
“He’s just sad.”
“He’s just going through a hard time.”
“He needs to get over himself and stop complaining.”
“All he does is whine.”
“Tell him to take a damn pill and move on.”
On January 25, 2017, the Twitter world blew up in conversation to tear down these stereotypes.
On January 25, 2017, so many people still found themselves in a situation where ending it all was the only way out. So many parents, mourning the lives of their children and vice versa. Siblings, husbands, wives, children, and friends, wondering why they didn’t reach out to someone. It happened in our own community, and now there are people mourning the loss of a beautiful girl, gone too soon.. but why? Why do these things have to happen? To the most beautiful, deserving, wonderful people? And why do we come together and advocate for this sort of thing after a loss? After a tragedy? After it’s too late?
They had no idea anything was even going on.
He didn’t seem like the kind of person that was dealing with that.
She was always so happy.
Our minds can be dark places. Whether we deal with clinical depression, situational depression, anxiety, whatever it is. Just the way a sick stomach makes you miserable and causes you to vomit, a sick brain can make you do things, feel things, that you can’t imagine unless you’re sick too. It’s the same as anything else.
This is what people need to understand about mental illness. So many times, I hear things like:
“I don’t get how someone can do that.”
“How is life ever that bad?”
“I can’t imagine being that upset.”
It’s not a matter of being upset and it’s not always a matter of life just being too bad to live it. People that suffer don’t always go willingly. They simply don’t feel like they have any other options. While I, myself, have never been suicidal, I have dealt with enough, that I’ve experienced what it’s like to want everything to just stop. Anxiety so bad, I’ll take whatever pills I need to knock my ass out so I can sleep through the nausea, feelings of panic that make me want to rip my hair out, and the hot flashes – oh the hot flashes.
Do you know what helps me and others that suffer from mental illness?
Learning to manage my anxiety and depression. Learning what works best for me during times of high anxiety or days when I just don’t feel like getting out of bed. Feeling okay about reaching out for help, and then getting it. Reading enough encouragement from others about medication as a viable treatment option. Mental illnesses are debilitating and I can’t say I would still be here had I not received the help I needed when I needed it years ago. I couldn’t go to work. I couldn’t leave the house to go shopping. I could barely be awake without feeling anxiety so bad I was throwing up everything I could, feeling all of my extremities go numb while I hyperventilated.
When people that suffer go without help, they reach a point of hopelessness.
We can write “If you need anything, you can contact me.” all over the internet as much as we want, but it will never be inviting enough for some that truly need help, because some that truly need help, always feel like a burden; like their problems aren’t worth the hassle.
So how are we supposed to help?
Educate yourself. Make sure others around you are educated on the subject as well. Work to eliminate these stigmas so we can legitimize these illnesses and make those that do suffer from them, more comfortable with asking and accepting professional help, medication, or therapy.
I was always up for therapy and asking for help, but I was hesitant to try any sort of medication for management because I thought it would make my illness real. As if worrying until I puke and staying shut up in my house wasn’t enough. I thought saying that I take medication for anxiety and depression was something to be ashamed of. But it’s been the biggest help for me. And I wish I had done it sooner.
I hope, I pray, and I make a regular effort on this blog and on social media, to shine light on the realness of mental illness, being okay with being sick, being okay with asking for help, and accepting ourselves for who we are and the baggage we carry because I suffer from it myself and I know what it’s like to live a life impacted by this sort of thing. It’s hard. But it’s possible. It’s even possible to enjoy it! To love it.
I wish less people suffered from mental illnesses. I wish more people that did would seek help. “Psychiatry” does not equal crazy. The range of “mental illness” is insanely vast and it covers so, so, so many different illnesses, syndromes, and disorders. Regardless of what your illness tells you in your head, it is an illness. It is treatable.
It gets better.
My heart is heavy tonight for a girl I only met once, but remained friends with over social media. I was blessed to be able to see her beautiful smile from time to time, and I pray for her friends and family that lost a huge part of their lives today.
* If you suffer from any sort of mental illness, please seek professional help, or look to a friend or family member to help in making decision to better your mental health. There are so many resources, websites, forums, doctors, and people that would do anything to help you get better. What you’re feeling can change. It can be treated. You’re worth the effort.
For more information on counseling, click HERE.