We talk about ending the stigma of mental illness. We seek acceptance on living with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more. We share our stories. We claim I am 1 in 5. We ink permanent reminders on our bodies for a constant picture to keep going.
We demand to be seen. To be heard. To be accepted.
And the only way that is going to happen is when we accept mental illness into our lives first.
Society isn’t going to accept depression and anxiety as a real disease until those that suffer accept depression and anxiety as a real disease.
Society isn’t going to take mental illness serious until those that suffer take mental illness serious.
Society isn’t going to understand the effectiveness of antidepressants until those that suffer understand the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Society isn’t going to comprehend the complex, unique, and individual nature of this disorder until those that suffer comprehend the complex, unique, and individual nature of this disorder.
Acceptance starts with you and me.
You might think this is pretty bold and blunt of me to say. You may say I am totally wrong on this. You might think I don’t know what the hell I am talking about.
But let me ask a few questions.
How long did it take to pick up the phone and call the doctor when you noticed something wasn’t right?
How long did that prescription sit in your cupboard before you opened it and took the first pill?
How long did you ignore the weight, the pressure, the hopelessness, the tears, the darkness? Pretending that it was just a bad day. Bad week. Bad month.
How long did you hide it? From your spouse. Your friends. Your family. Yourself.
How long did you push it away? Push it to the farthest corner of your heart. Your brain. Your life.
How many times did you say to yourself: I just need to try harder. I just need to pray harder. I just need to work out harder. Sleep more. Eat healthier.
How many times did you think that this was happening because of something you did? Or it is because you aren’t strong enough? Good enough? This is on you.
How many times did anxiety force you to cancel plans, hide away in bed, never allowing you to breathe?
How many times did you beg for your old self to just come back? That if you willed your thoughts to be happy and sunny, you could be old me again.
How long did it take for you to finally say no more? I can’t do this anymore. Before you reached out for help.
A day. A week. A month. A year.
And when you finally took that step towards help, how many times did you say to yourself that only for a month. Or 6 months. You gave it a timeline. Thus setting expectations that may not be achievable.
Because we have been told that it is all in our head. We just have to change our attitudes. We have to try harder. If we do xyz, we won’t feel this way anymore.
Because we are scared. Of others not understanding. Of being pushed away. Of how we will be seen and treated now. Of our most cherished and loved ones being taken away. Of labels as unfit, crazy, and weak.
Because the disease infects our thoughts making us believe all of this is personal rather than biological.
How long do you suffer before you accept mental illness as part of your life?
For me. A couple months.
Early on in my diagnosis, I embraced depression as something that will walk along side of me through the good and bad. I understood what was happening as a disease affecting one of my organs. I approached treatment and medication scientifically and biochemically. I welcomed my new self. A woman that now lives with a treatable complex disorder. I explored different tools and techniques that ease the symptoms and side effects. Allowing me to live more fully with my illness.
Once I did this, I was set free.
From the stigma placed on mental illness.
From the added suffering by denying myself treatment.
From withholding support and love by family and friends.
Over time, I grew bolder and more outspoken. Opening up and admitting my diagnosis with others. Constantly seeking better treatments and therapies during life events, pregnancy, and motherhood. And now, today, writing and sharing my mental illness with strangers so they will know they are not alone.
I accepted depression with anxiety into my life.
By doing that, I am leading the way for society to accept mental illness as a common illness that 1 in 5 are affected with in any given year.
How can acceptance happen when those that suffer refuse to accept mental illness themselves?
And how can you go about pulling it in rather than pushing it away?
Make the phone call.
Take the pill.
Educate on scientific facts rather than opinions and assumptions.
Shine the light upon the darkness.
No more shame or blame.
Stop running away.
Accept what is.
And soon, you too, are going to discover just how strong, brave, free, able, and accepted new self is.
National Alliance on Mental Illness: www.nami.org
U.S Department of Health & Human Services: www.mentalhealth.gov
National Institute of Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.gov