The other day I was waiting in line to see Harry Styles on The Today show, when someone asked me something. In a non-malicious way, a new friend had asked me- “How are you able to be so open about your mental illness? Aren’t you scared sometimes that people are going to judge you for it?”
I was able to explain it to them but I thought maybe I would share it with you all, too.
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.
I’m not ashamed of the fact that I have depression and anxiety. It’s a fact, it’s an illness. I treat it with medication and proper therapy and I can keep it under control. I will never be ashamed of it. I’m not afraid to tell people I have Lyme disease, just the same as I’m not afraid to tell them I have depression. Though different, they’re both treatable illnesses.
If someone wants to judge me on having depression and anxiety, they aren’t the type of people I want in my life. I’ve had my fair share of friends who didn’t “get it”, told me that I just needed to get over it and stop being nervous, stop being sad, that it’s all for attention even after I’ve tried to calmly explain why it is I feel the things I do sometimes. Those aren’t my ‘friends’ anymore.
I don’t want people in my life that are going to treat me as a joke, act as if it’s embarrassing when I speak about my own mental health.
Lastly, I talk about mental illness and I speak of it so casually, because not a lot of people will. Like my friend Whitney said, Living life with mental illness can be living life in a Ghost Story. Slowly but surely it’s getting better, but we still have this stigma behind mental illness. It isn’t embarrassing, it should not be a taboo topic, it should be something talked about and recognized by more people as actual illnesses so we can treat them, and spread awareness to what they actually are. Education should be spread.
I also speak so that if someone else is struggling, they won’t feel so alone. Maybe if I talk about it to someone they can open up and understand that they may have an issue, or they see it isn’t only them struggling. They can see how I went from such a dark place and came out of it. I want people to see they can achieve things and do what they want even with these illnesses.
Every time I speak about my mental illness, I help end the stigma.
I like to keep it real, and I’ll be the first to admit that my anxiety as of late has gotten much much worse. I was recently hospitalized for a week, paralysed, with Conversion Disorder. It isn’t something that just goes away but it can get better. With extra therapy and medication, I am so much better. My depression is better, too.
My new friend understood, and actually thanked me for speaking about it. But the conversation we had afterwards about it was so rewarding, being able to help someone feel a bit better about their own illnesses and feel a bit of hope, it’s all worth it to me.