Mental Health: Fighting the Stigma

I don’t normally post on a Saturday, but today I’m making an exception because this is something that needs to be talked about. There needs to be more open dialogue regarding mental health. More education is needed to bring awareness to the effects of mental health conditions and less shaming to those who are suffering. It is serious and it is real.

stigma (noun): A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

“Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities” (source: National Alliance on Mental Health)

Based on the statistics above, you likely know someone who suffers from mental illness or are possibly suffering yourself. Although public awareness of mental health is increasing there is still a stigma that surrounds it. People who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and panic attacks (just to name a few) are often made to feel ashamed or accused of seeking attention. Mental disorders are serious and because of the stigma that is attached to them people often times do not seek help or they may not even know help is available.

I’m not an expert on this subject and won’t pretend like I am. Everything that is written here is my opinion, and should not be taken as a voice of authority on the matter. I have not written much about my own experiences with depression and anxiety for the same exact reason as I mentioned above. The fear of judgment by those that truly do not understand has kept me from sharing these parts of myself. No more. I will no longer sit idly by knowing that there are people who still feel alone in this fight. You are not alone.

I remember the first time I ever had a panic attack. It was back in 2003, and I was trying to put up a shower curtain rod. Although I can’t remember exactly what happened, I do recall my then husband-to-be not lifting a finger to help all the while knowing I was having difficulties, and then trivializing the issue like he so often did. My chest began to tighten, I got clammy, my pulse started racing, and I lost it. I sat out on the front stoop of our apartment and cried until I felt I couldn’t cry any more.

The next panic attack panic attack happened in Wal-Mart during a busy shopping season, and while standing in line in the garden center I felt that familiar tightening of my chest. There were so many people. I felt like they were all invading my personal space, and I remember grasping the buggy so tightly my knuckles turned white. I had to get out of there immediately. Once I made it to the safety of the car, I broke down in sobs.

The depression came a little later. I’m not going to go into a lot of details about my previous marriage, but I’ll just say that it wasn’t great. I felt alone, rejected, unloved, isolated, and unappreciated. Those feelings led to a severe depression that I still feel the after effects of from time to time. My husband at the time either didn’t understand or didn’t care about what I was feeling. The weight of that along with unhappiness at my job made me feel hopeless. While I never really contemplated suicide, I began not caring about life in general and I became withdrawn. At the persistent urging of friends reluctantly to go to the doctor. My biggest fear was being “labeled”. I didn’t want people to think I was “crazy”. But I went. I was prescribed medication for depression and anxiety. I’ve been taking medication ever since.

Medication, while helpful, can only treat so much. At least in my case. Either way, it’s important to seek out professional help, someone to whom you can talk to openly and freely about all of the things your thinking and feeling. Please don’t feel ashamed to get help. It’s hard to make that first step, I know, but please talk to someone. I want you to know that if you feel like there is no one in the world you can talk to, you can talk to me. I will listen, without judgment.

Depression lies. It attacks your mind, body, and soul. Depression shatters your confidence and invalidates your sense of self-worth. You are not worthless, or broken or unfixable. You deserve and are worthy of love, compassion, and empathy. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255). . Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

There’s so much more to my story, this is only skimming the surface. But it’s what I feel comfortable sharing right now. Also, this post feels like it’s all over the place and I’m sorry about that, but I’m literally only now finishing this post at 1:45 AM and I am sure there are spelling and grammatical errors galore. I just felt called to bring a little bit of awareness on my blog about a subject that is often so hard to talk about. There is so much more to say about this, but this is a start. Thank you for reading and please reach out to those you may know who are dealing with mental health issues. Your compassion and understanding could make a life changing difference to someone who desperately needs it.

Sending love and light,

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