People who “suffer” from a mental health illness are often treated differently, or viewed as dangerous, incompetent, violent, criminal, or undeserving; just to name a few common associations. But why? Just because we have a sickness in our brain, does not mean that we should be avoided as if we are contagious, or feel as though we cannot talk about our confusing thoughts, or impulses. Instead of others trying to understand what it’s like to live with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, or anything of the like, we are often told that we are different, and never the ‘good’ kind of different either. Almost as if we don’t get a say in how we are viewed by those looking in. Personally, I think that those of us who “suffer” with Mental Illness should have the final say. WE are the ones having to cope with this on a daily basis.
We need to eliminate the stigma of mental health altogether. We all struggle from something. Why are we trying to make any group of people feel less than they already do? When will we learn that secluding people from what is considered acceptable, is the quickest way for people of all walks of life to feel alone?
Here is the truth about Mental Illness: It does not discriminate against anyone. It doesn’t care how much money you have, how good of a person you are, what your ethnicity is, or what kind of moral code you possess. Mental Health targets anyone and everyone. Who are we to decide that someone is less worthy because their mind has a tendency to work against them?
According to the NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Health, 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year. Here are some figures for you to consider:
- 1 in 5 adults in America will experience a mental illness
- Nearly 1 in 25 (10 million) adults in America live with a serious mental illness
- One half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by the age of 24
- 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia
- 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder
- 6.9% of adults in the U.S. (16 million) had at least one major depressive episode in the past year
- 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias
- Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness
With depression being the leading cause of disability worldwide, and major contributor to the global burden of disease, why is it that we are so afraid to talk about what most of us will go through as we experience life? Depression can be brought on by an event that happens in your life, so why are we pretending that we are invincible from feeling dark pain?
It is hard to explain what mental illness feels like to someone who has genuinely never been through it, and honestly, I am happy that there are people out there that don’t know this part of their mind. Let me try to use examples to show what mental illness has been like for me --
Anxiety is like watching the same movie over and over again and not being able to handle that the ending is always going to be the same.
Depression is like sitting in a room filled with all your favorite things and still not being able to find the energy or happiness to enjoy them.
OCD is like knowing that you need to stop doing something, but you destructively keep doing it until the urge is gone.
Addiction is like handing your life over willingly for something else to control, and then fighting to the death to try to gain a little control back.
When describing mental illness to someone else, never once do I use the term “Suffering” because I do not feel as though I am suffering. Are there days where I wish my mind wouldn’t work against me? More than I care to admit. But are there days where I wish to be someone else? Not one. Because I am SURVIVING despite having to challenge my every move, thought, or feeling. I have learned to accept that this is just how it is, and I must figure out ways to combat against the part of my brain that tries to fight me.
It has become very important for me to talk about this subject, because quite frankly, not enough people are. We are still talking about Mental Illness in hushed tones, and quiet whispers. It should not be treated as the elephant in the room, instead, it should be addressed like the problem that it is becoming. Mental illness is often ranked as the TOP stigmatized illness, and it has also been shown that 4 in 5 people think it is harder to admit to having a mental illness than any other out there.
We must get away from this idea that we cannot be open about who we are just because others don’t understand mental illness for themselves. That is not my problem, but I am doing what I can to educate those who want to know more. It is through talking about my struggles that has made it easier for me to SURVIVE this life, and I am just trying to get others to see that they too can speak up about what not enough people are talking about.
I do not fault anyone for their own personal beliefs on mental illness, because why would I expect you to understand something not many people are trying to understand? My goal, or intention with sharing my own personal experiences is so others can see what life is like through a different perspective. Through the lens of a human being with Mental Illness.
I do not suffer from mental illness; I am surviving because of it.
I have learned to accept certain realities about my life, and I am no longer ashamed of who I am because of that. I have learned what works for me, and what doesn’t. I tried self-medicating for a long time, and I have been trying self-love for a change, and it turns out, that works much better for me. I still have my dark days that require alone time. I still have moments that challenge my self-control. I still battle certain urges that flash through my mind. But what is the most important thing to me is that I am still SURVIVING, and I want anyone, and everyone to know, that they don’t have to suffer if they don’t want to. Mental illness doesn’t have to be a weakness; it can also be a strength. NEVER forget that.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate you.