Thank you

Thanks to everyone who read my post on mental illness and for all the kind responses I got.
Honestly, after I put my post on facebook, insecurity hit big time. Why am I doing this? As if anyone wants to read this. With those 2 people I know I’m not exactly going to change the world. Ahhh, good old insecurity, always there when you don’t need it.

The nice feedback and the kind words that I received in response to my post were heartwarming and made me realize it was a good decision.
Also, it reminded me of the fact that there are a lot of people in one way or another being affected by depression (I’ll stick with depression, since that’s my field of expertise). It’s just that most people don’t talk about it.
And, not unimportant, it made me realize I need to be more open about it with the people around me. If they don’t know I’m having a rough time, they can’t help me. Well, dah…

It’s just time I actually start doing it. It doesn’t help that I’m not much of a talker and there’s also the problem (well, one of them anyway 🙂 ) that I’d like to pretend everything’s ok, and I’m pretty darn good at it, if I say so myself. The: “if you don’t say it aloud, it’s not there” strategy. Not very helpful, in case you were wondering.
And I don’t want people to think I’m whining by saying I’m not well so often (I have quite some days I’m not doing too great). And also, my good, is good considering how it usually is, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m “normal” good .
But I have to put this aside, for myself, so people around me know what’s going on. But also for my daughter, because I want her to learn it’s not just ok speak about your feelings, but also necessary.

So, for everyone who cares; right now, I’m not doing too great. Winter is usually a hard time for me and I was actually hoping I’d do better now that the days are getting longer en sunnier. Unfortunately I’m not there yet. My challenge is to remind myself that my mind is playing tricks on me and that I have to be very careful what to believe and not. Also, I like to have contact, but feeling like this makes it hard for me to get in touch and even harder to actually go out and see people. Just know it’s not because I don’t care or don’t want, but just because I’m in a rough place at the moment.

Thank you to everyone who cares, for your kind words and being my friend. It really does mean a lot!

Sandra

Mental illness #break the stigma

Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.
Michelle Obama

Mental health, one of the most important things in our lives, whether young or old. It determines how we interact with people around us, how we handle stress and problems, how we make choices and act.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) almost 18 percent of US adults suffered from a mental illness in 2015. And unfortunately it’s not just adults. One in five children (age 13-18) suffer at some point in their life from a debilitating mental disorder.
Considering those numbers and the impact of mental illness, it’s rather surprising how little attention we give it. And by keeping silent, we maintain the stigma surrounding mental illness. Getting rid of the stigma and recognizing that it’s a real illness will encourage more people to seek the help they need and do justice to their suffering.

I’ve experienced this stigma first hand. Ever since I was a teenager I have been struggling on and off with episodes of depression. First of all, it took years before I found out I suffered from depression. It’s not something they talk about in schools (though, considering the amount of children that suffer I think they should!). In fact, no one ever talks about it.
Things didn’t get much better when I knew I suffered from depression. Like before, people kept telling me to think positively, socialize and exercise more. It became painfully clear that people saw it as something I could have prevented or at least could cure by doing things differently. In their eyes I was just feeling blue, no big deal. However, depression is something totally different than having the blues. Depression is an illness with serious impact on the person who suffers from it as well as the people around him/her.

Besides the fact that depression is often not considered to be a “real” illness, there’s also the notion that you’re crazy. Once someone said to me that if one sees a psychiatrist “you’re really crazy”. I politely explained that a psychiatrist is nothing more than a doctor who’s specialized in mental illness and that most people that see a psychiatrist are absolutely not crazy. But it definitely shows a big part of the problem. Mental illness is often associated with being crazy. Dangerous maybe even. And yes, there are cases in which that is true. But, more often than not, crazy has nothing to do with it. They are just normal people with an illness of the brain.

It’s time that we start seeing mental illness for what it is. An illness.
We have to get rid of the notion that mental illness is self inflicted, not a “real” disease, and that people with a mental illness are weak of even crazy. How would you feel if your leg was broken and someone told you to “just think positively and exercise more”? You’d probably feel insulted, right? I know some people will think this is a ridiculous analogy, but this in fact is exactly what’s happening.
I’m not sure why it’s so hard for people to accept mental illness is real. I guess part of it is because if you’ve never experienced it, it is hard, if not impossible to imagine what its like and therefore is not relatable. Maybe because the behavior of someone with a mental illness can differ from “the norm”.

It can definitely be challenging to be around someone with a mental illness. Take depressed people, they’re not exactly fun to be around with (believe me, I know). Just try to keep in mind that’s pretty hard to be good company when your world is nothing more than a big black hole. And if you think it can’t be as bad as someone tells you; multiply their story by ten and you will have a glimpse at what they’re going through. The darkness and despair of a depression just can’t be described in words.
I know most people mean well, but please do NOT give someone with a mental illness “advice” about what will “cure” them. Believe me, they have tried. If you really care about someone, read about their illness and the best you can do, is simply to genuinely listen without any judgement (unfortunately that proves to very difficult for a lot of people).

The problem with the stigma of mental illness is that it makes it hard for people to admit that they suffer from it and prevents them to seek help. After all, no one likes to be seen as a hypochonder, weak or crazy. So, on top of their illness, they also have to deal with this enormous stigma, making them feel unheard and ashamed of themselves.

I’m no longer ashamed of saying I suffer from depression, but I definitely have been. That doesn’t mean I like to talk about it, especially to people I don’t know. Not because I’m ashamed. I know I didn’t bring this on myself. It’s because it takes too much energy to try to explain (more likely try to convince) that it’s really an illness and not me being lazy and feeling blue.
Though, I have to admit I still have moments that I feel guilty about being depressed. After all, I have a good life. I have a wonderful husband, a lovely daughter, live in a nice house, have friends, yet, I’m not happy. Having all this, I’m “supposed” to be happy. I feel guilty for not having a clean house and having all the laundry done, even though I’m a stay at home mom and have plenty of time. I feel guilty for not doing more with my family. I’m very grateful to have a wonderful, understanding husband, who reminds that’s not because I’m lazy or don’t care, but because I’m ill.

Please help break the stigma of mental illness by being open about it and acknowledging it’s just another illness and nothing to be ashamed about.