This series was inspired by Bell Let’s Talk on January 25th. It was on this day that many people on Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets opened up about their personal experiences with mental illness. It was inspiring to see so many people being so open and honest about a topic that is so “hush hush”.
According to the Bell Let’s Talk website, two out of three people suffer in silence, fearing judgement and rejection. I don’t know about you, but I find this to be so unfortunate. It is heartbreaking to know that there are so many people out there who are struggling, unable to get the help they require.
On January 25th, one word seemed to be plastered all over social media. When I was doing some additional research for this series, again that word was in each article I read. Since this one word kept popping up everywhere I looked, I decided to look up the true definition for this word and when I did, I was overwhelmed with sadness.
A mark of shame or disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person.
Synonyms: shame, disgrace, dishonour, humiliation, (bad) reputation.
The stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness is awful. It is preventing people from getting the help they truly need. It is so important for us to bring more awareness to mental health, and stop jumping to conclusions or making a judgement about their situation.
Mental illnesses come in all shapes, sizes, feelings, and expressions. Often times, people who are affected by a mental illness do not “show” it. When you look at someone who has GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), you may not see them suffering. It isn’t until they are able to open up to you that you’ll see it.
It’s vital that we continue to speak up about mental illness.
It’s vital that we continue to learn more about mental illness.
This part is really difficult for me to write. The thought of truly opening up about my experience with mental illness is nerve-racking. I know it’s okay that I am feeling uncomfortable sharing my personal story, but I’m a little embarrassed that I am feeling all of the synonyms listed above for “stigma”… shame, humiliation, etc. My feelings right now are the perfect example of what this stigma has done to people who are affected by mental illness.
But when I sit here and analyze my feelings about writing this … all of the negative feelings are pushed aside by my passion to help others. If sharing my story could help even one person feel like they are not alone in what they are going through, then the feelings I have right now are well-worth it.
Like many people, I have been affected by mental illness. I believe that there were multiple events throughout my life that contributed to where I am in life right now. From losing my best friend when I was only 13 to worrying that I might lose my vision (not ideal as a photographer) to struggling with my weight and body-image, things kept piling up without ever really being addressed. Because all of the events I have been through were never really acknowledged, they were never properly dealt with.
I know how it feels to feel like you are not enough. Like no matter how hard you try, nothing you do is ever good enough.
I know how it feels to wake up in the morning without any motivation or desire to move.
I know how it feels to want nothing more than to just be happy even for a minute, but instead be uncontrollably sad and not understand why.
I know how it feels to be so scared you might have an anxiety attack that you stop doing all the things you used to love doing.
I know how it feels to think that if you just change one thing in your life, everything else will be fine, but have no motivation to change that one thing.
I know how it feels to feel like you are all alone in what you are going through, even if you have an amazing support system.
I continued to downplay all of my feelings for the longest time. It wasn’t until I went to see my doctor and she recommended taking anti-depressants that I knew I wasn’t okay. I guess I didn’t realize how bad things really were. I decided to give therapy a try before taking medication. For me, having someone to talk to who truly had the knowledge to help me deal with my anxieties was like a breath of fresh air.
While going through all of this, I had a long conversation with my brother, who studied psychology in university, and vented to him exactly how I was feeling. I think this was the first time that I was truly honest with someone about what I was going through. After talking to him, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Like I could finally breathe. Like I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think all I really needed was someone to talk to who understood what I was going through and could honestly tell me that I wasn’t alone and that the way I was feeling wouldn’t last forever.
I’m sharing with you what I found has worked for me, but it might be different for you and that doesn’t mean you are worse off or that you cannot get better. Everyone is different, and what helps one person may not necessarily help everyone. You may need to take medication because therapy isn’t enough, or you may only take medication because maybe you aren’t ready for therapy just yet, or you may not need either, instead just a support system to help carry you through. Everyone is different and every situation is different, and if your current situation looks different than mine, that doesn’t mean you are alone.
I’ve been through it, got through it, and you will too. You’ll feel like you’re alone in your bubble but you aren’t.
Everything you are thinking is your clouded judgement from your illness. It’s not what you actually believe, only what you perceive based on your current situation.
It will end. Nobody suffers forever. But, every person that got better made the decision to make themselves better. The mind is powerful. Think negative a lot and you develop depression. Be as positive as possible, surround yourself with happy people, remove all drama from your life. You can cure yourself.
My journey with mental illness is not over. It is something I live with and work at every day, and I know just how hard it is. It is something that I struggle to remain in control of. It is something that I’ve chosen to not let define me, but instead, something that I will overcome and when I do, I will be a better person because of it.
Don’t let your mental illness define you.
You are so much more than depression, anxiety, PTSD, postpartum or any other mental illness.
You are not alone.
You are enough.
You are beautiful.
You are worthy.
You are significant.
You are loved.
You deserve happiness.
You can beat this.
You can get better.
If you are going through something and just need someone to talk to, please contact me, a trusted friend or a family member. Reach out to someone. You do not have to go through this alone.