Today’s Friday Gratitude is a bit different than usual. I joined up with Blog for Mental Health 2014 to talk about my experiences with mental illness. I know what you’re thinking: What does gratitude have to do with mental health?! Keep reading to find out:
I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma. [Lulu Stark]
In that pledge above, there is an important word: stigma. Stigma is what makes people suffering from trauma, abuse, mental illness, and disability want to hide. It makes them feel ashamed, embarrassed, or less than everyone else. I hid for a long time: I couldn’t even accept my own depression, much less expect anyone else to embrace it as part of me.
You know what’s even worse? Stigmas within stigmas. Imagine breaking your leg, an injury you have no control over, and you feel ashamed, because now you are different from everyone else. Now you have this thing that sets you apart, that limits your abilities and what you can accomplish everyday, just because you’re trying to work around that darn broken leg. Now imagine that society doesn’t really want to talk about that broken leg, and neither do your friends. People feel awkward about it, and so they avoid the topic entirely. This “works” only so far as assuaging their own discomfort. But meanwhile, you’re still pretty uncomfortable. You’re in a lot of pain, actually. You start physical therapy to improve your mobility, since it was a pretty bad fracture. Now you’re being proactive! You’re doing something to help your situation and work toward healing!
Here’s where the stigma within the stigma comes in: as soon as you start that treatment, you tell people that it’s working, and you’re going to keep doing it to continue on the road to recovery. And imagine that people you thought were friends, and much of the greater population in fact, questions you on your physical therapy: But have you tried this other thing? Do you have to go that far? It’s only for a short time, right? Consequently, you start to question what you’re doing to help yourself: Is this wrong? Why aren’t they being supportive? Why does it seem like they’re trying to make me feel bad about this?
Now imagine that you don’t have a broken foot, or any kind of visible illness or injury. Imagine that your condition is mental illness. The above scenario is exactly what I have experienced on my journey with depression and antidepressants. Can we please all work together to eradicate the stigma of not just mental illness, but of the medication that quite successfully treats that illness?
I am 31 years old and I have struggled with depression since I was in high school. I am on antidepressants to treat my depression.
That is how you eradicate stigma. You talk about it. You speak about your struggles with acceptance, not shame. You tell others that it’s okay to come out of the shadows, because they’ve got plenty of company. All over the world, people of all races, genders, socioeconomic classes, ages, and nationalities live with mental illness every day. And as much as they may need it, many people don’t have any access to treatment.
My gratitude for today? I’m grateful that I have health insurance and don’t have to pay for my medication. I’m grateful for my acceptance. I’m grateful that this Blog for Mental Health pledge exists, because it helps us build a sense of community, rather than keeping us hidden behind closed doors.
Some posts I have written on depression:
- Depression Feels Like This Part Two: A Conversation with My Husband, in which I ask my husband, Andy, a bunch of really tough questions. This is a conversation everyone who suffers from depression or other mental illness needs to have with their spouse and close family members: What do you experience watching me go through this? What can I do to make it easier for you?
- Depression Feels Like This, where I sing the praises of Hyperbole and a Half and explain how I identified with a novel about a woman with Alzheimer’s.
- Sunday Travel: Being Depressed While Traveling, where I drew on my experiences to post some tips to use when you have to deal with your depression on the road.
- In Support of Tears, when I realized I was writing about my mental health and other people were reading. Wow!
Please visit A Canvas of the Minds to find out more about Blog for Mental Health 2014.
If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do. –-Stephen Fry
I am so bookmarking your blog into my favorites folder. This post is so inspiring to me as I am a survivor and battl-er of mental illness. Thank you so much for sharing this post <3
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Wow, thank you so much and you’re welcome! It’s taken me a long time to be able to talk about this stuff (semi) comfortably, but I’m glad I can share now, especially when I get feedback like this <3
I think one of my first posts of yours to read was about depression and you talked a lot about Andy.
I’ve struggled with anxiety since college graduation. Not sure why not before that! It’s often situational but can be debilitating at times. I remember when I first started openly talking about it, instead of hiding, and I was so grateful for the support. And many people..well..many people experience depression and/or anxiety in their lives.
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Anxiety sucks so much- I’ve got several more posts up my sleeve about that. Maybe you were so well accustomed to being in school and learning, and living a structured life, that once you graduated, panic set in?
What a wonderful project. Christy, you are so fortunate to have insurance that covers the medication. I am one of the lucky ones there, too. But my heart is heavy because so many are not that fortunate, and it eliminates options for them. Options that could be life changing …
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It really is such an atrocity that not everyone can receive the help they need, Shana. It’s one of those issues that really makes me look at other countries and think ‘They’ve got it so much better!’
Great analogy within this post! Good for you having gratitude enough to talk about Mental Health and the stigma surrounding it…or as in this post, the stigma within stigma 🙂
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Thanks! I wasn’t sure if the analogy was too similar to others I’ve hears, but I’m glad you liked it.
The stigma I faced as a young adult battling depression and anxiety still stings to this day. I really appreciate this post.
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It’s awful, isn’t it? I’m hoping projects and movement like this one are making it easier for young adults today than it was as little as ten or twenty years ago. I’m glad you stopped by, Nicole!
Simply could not agree with you more Christy. Stopping by from the SITS Sharefest and so glad I did! Until we all talk about it more, the stigma will not go away.-Ashley
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I’m glad you did too, Ashley. Currently hatching an idea to start a SITS mental health tribe, hmmmmmm….
Hi Christy, I have always been blessed with good mental health and with that came a naivety in my twenties that I would always be this way. In my early thirties i suffered from 5 miscarriages and my mental health suffered greatly. It was during this time I decided to accept the help that is available to me and spent 3 years in therapy resulting in my ability to enjoy the birth of my daughter and her early years. When I had my second child I developed an acute anxiety disorder that took me a year to acknowledge and then 2 years of therapy and medication to overcome. I now view the world with different eyes, I look at mental health as i do my physical health. I am proud to say i go to gym and exercise and I also proudly say I seek the help of mental health professionals to keep that aspect of myself in check. I also learned to write as a way to help relax my anxious mind.
You are doing a marvellous thing bringing talking so openly about mental health and yes you are so correct it does need to be discussed more to reduce the stigma.
Oh, Karen. I so appreciate you sharing your experience. This is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for with this post: people opening up with their own mental health struggles. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for you to go through five miscarriages. It’s wonderful that you sought help- no matter how long it took you to acknowledge or work through everything, what matters is that you *did it*.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Sending lots of hugs your way!
Fantastic! You being so open about this helps others to feel less alone and at ease. And also, less ashamed!
I hope so, Erika. I certainly wish I’d found a post like this when I was…oh, anywhere from ages 17-29 😉
Thank you for this post! It has made me realise that other people feel the same about the stigma of mental health and “invisible illnesses”. I have also taken the BFMH 2014 pledge, its time that people started to talk about mental health! =)
You’re so welcome, Hayley! I’m glad you stopped by and glad we both found the pledge! Let’s keep talking about mental health until everyone rolls their eyes and say stuff like ‘What, that’s still an issue?!’ 🙂
I agree. It is so important to be open about these things. That way others do not feel so alone.
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Absolutely! Thanks for this comment. If this project can help others feel less alone, then us bloggers are doing a good thing.
It was nice to read this…it IS hard to talk about mental health. I have struggled with OCD issues most of my life, although it’s never been diagnosed. It’s misunderstood by many…”why can’t you just stop?” “You brought that on yourself.” It’s hard to talk about it when those are the kind of comments you hear. I hide it as best I can. It actually has gotten better over the years…perhaps the hormone levels changed with pregnancy? I’m grateful for that. Stress makes it worse.
I’m glad this was helpful for you, Michelle. Hearing the kind of comments you describe are exactly what perpetuates feelings of shame. I’m sorry you have to hide something that is so much a part of your make-up, but how nice that it’s gotten easier to manage!
Love this post. I wish someone had told me about stigma and how there were other people who felt the same way I did when I was younger. It’s something that’s not really talked about in our society, and I wish it was because it’s more common than people realize. It took me a lot of to ask for help and at first when I was trying to get professional help, I didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid of what other people might say.
Instead of pretending mental illnesses don’t exist or matter, we should be talking about it and educating those around us so thank you for this post.
You’re right, Molly, mental health and all the stigmas attacked to it are not talked about enough at all. I’m not sure why that is, because the silence is only hurting so many of us who suffer from mental illness. Thank you for your comment and I’m so glad you got something out of this post!
You speak the words of my heart. I love you so so much. You are a superhero-goddess-angel-and best wifey in the world!
Love love love, my dear!
I think all women can relate that depression is a spirit bugging you whenever the circumstances are not favorable in your end. I sometimes experience the heck of it but, it I try to combat that feeling by making myself accountable to the people within my circle. Social stigma for this emotion will just only get you even worse but when you get to be open to yourself and to the people within your circle, there’s always an assurance that their encouragement motivates you to be optimist.
Taking mental illness out of the shadows and into the light is critical. There is so much shame associated with it. It is not until you actually know someone personally who has struggled with it, does it really have a human face. One of my closest friends has struggled with Bi-Polar Disorder and it wasn’t until I observed and participated in her journey that the reality of mental illness was revealed to me. Huge lesson.
I hear you, Rosanne. Sometimes we can’t truly understand something until we see it in a loved one, and then it becomes more ‘real’. I hope your friend is doing well!
Once in our life we may experience depression and it’s up to ourselves how we cope and manage to survive from it.Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust, face to face if possible. The people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix you; they just need to be good listeners.
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