Today’s not a great day for me. I don’t feel well physically, mentally, or emotionally. And that sucks. But I’ll be okay. I always am. In the meantime, though, I want to talk about something that is somewhat, even in 2016, still taboo. You may like what I have to say and agree. You may think I’m stupid and ignore me. Whatever. But I’m still going to say it.
For so long, mental illness and disorders have had such a stigma attached to them. In days past, it was something that wasn’t talked about. A matter of shame. Today, it’s something that’s not so much hidden but more scoffed at. I cannot tell you how many times a well meaning person has tried to give me advice. Cheer up. Think about the good things in your life. Just get up and do it (it being a variance of things) whether you feel like it or not. I know they mean well and I can’t be angry. But do these people not understand that it’s not that easy? If it were, I, along with millions of others, would have just “cheered up” years ago. It’s not fun to feel like this. It’s not as if we have the ability to turn our illness on or off because believe you mean, if we did, nearly all of us would have done so long ago.
Then there are those that are hurtful about it. They tell us it’s all in our head. They remind us that others have it much worse than us and we should quit feeling sorry for ourselves.
Telling someone with mental illness that it’s all in their head or imagination when you have no clue the level to which they suffer is the same thing as telling a person with cancer to stop feeing sorry for themselves. Or diabetes. Or heart disease. Sure, the symptoms are different but a disease is a disease. Mental illnesses affect the brain which happens to be an organ as well. So while it may LITERALLY been all in our head, figuratively speaking its ignorant to say this to those suffering. And yes. I’m aware I’m blessed. I have a good life. A good family. A good boyfriend. A good life in general. I’m not starving. I’m not oppressed. I’m fairly healthy for the most part. And yes there are so many that have it worse than me. But that doesn’t take away from my pain or what I feel. I’m allowed, as we all are, to fully feel my emotions. To voice them. To seek hope. Just because I’m sad or anxious at times doesn’t mean I don’t understand the suffering of others or that I don’t thank God for all He has done for me. I’m not selfish for how I feel and I won’t feel bad for it.
As many of you know, I’ve suffered from severe anxiety and depression over the last decade of my life. Some of it has been brought on by things that have happened and some of it is biological. But it’s here. I’m neither ashamed or proud. It’s just a fact. Others suffer in silence and I did for so long. But no more. I speak out not because I owe anyone an explaination but because I know so many suffer so deeply alone and if I can maybe help one person even a little, it’s worth it. If not, talking about it helps me so its not in vain.
It’s hard to explain to others what depression feels like. And I imagine it’s different for all of us. To me, it means it’s almost impossible to get out of bed and shower. Cleaning or cooking, during these times, seems like tasks that loom over me like a cloud. It’s not lazy. It’s total lack of motivation and the absence of energy. Just thinking about being productive can be mind numbing. Sometimes there are physical symptoms. Chest pains. Headaches. Nausea. It’s like the weight of my worries lie so heavy in my body, I can’t move.
And anxiety? That’s worse to me. It’s worrying about everything. Excessively. Needing to be reassured that I’m good enough constantly. Worrying about losing someone I care about. Feeling too ugly or too fat or too skinny or too gross to meet new people. Anxiety is having a panic attack because you have the exact time mapped out that it takes your mom to get to the grocery and back and if she’s late, you assume she’s dead. Anxiety is having a degree but not feeling good or smart enough to apply for jobs. That’s anxiety.
I write this not because I’m not doing well. Not because I’m not happy. As a matter of fact, I’m at a good place in life right now. A great support system, a good life. A wonderful companion. A gracious God. My thoughts are positive for the most part.
I write this because even in the best of times I have bad days and that’s okay. I write this because my mental illness is something that exists and most likely will always be a part of who I am and that’s okay. I write this because I have to take pills to keep me balanced hormonally and mentally and that’s okay. Because you know what? Prayer works. It does. By this disorder is not just something you pray away. It’s not something you wish away. Or talk away. Some people can talk to a therapist and function fine. Some people can go off their meds and be okay. But not me. I must take them and take them regularly. And you know what? That’s okay. I’m not ashamed. I didn’t choose this. But I’m doing my best with it.
I just want you to know, whoever you may be, I’m here if you want to talk. Cliche I know. But I mean it. I love taking and I love listening. I wont figure your problems out or be able to give great advice. But I won’t judge. I’ll understand. Whether you’re suffering in silence or “out” as having a mental illness, you can reach out. If you feel you’re alone or at the end of your rope, reach out. It’s never too late to get help. I promise. :)