The Stigma of Mental Health Issues

I used to be one of those people who thought that anything metally going wrong with me meant that I was weak. It made me feel abnormal. Other people were happy, why wasn’t I? I knew I didn’t have a terrible life, and it was beyond me as to why I felt the way I did. Everyone else seemed to be able to handle their lives and troubles. How were they able to let things roll off their backs while I was constantly wallowing? Why did I feel like such a fake, a phony? Why was I struggling all the time?

Well, I have learned a few things since I started treatment. And I want to share some of that with you, so that you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

The first is obvious: you never really know what other people are going through. They may look fine and as if they have their act together but secretly are in pieces. It apparently is really common to ignore or misunderstand mental health issues, or for people to hide them out of embarrassment. Many people don’t want to admit it if their lives are not perfect, and they put on a show for their Facebook friends and family. But inside, they are struggling and wondering why nobody actually sees what is going on. When I was open with my friends and family that I was receiving treatment, I found out that there were others who needed help or were in counselling themselves. I had no idea. I encouraged those who wanted help to get it, and if you are considering it–I’ll tell you the same. Give it a try. You’ll only know if it helps you if you seek out the help for yourself.

Another thing that I learned is that most mental health issues are out of our control. It would be like getting mad at yourself for getting the flu. You could wash your hands all the time, get the flu shot, and still get sick. Does that mean you did anything wrong? Of course not. The next time somebody tells you that you’re choosing to be unhappy, or something similar, think about it: are you? Does it feel like a choice to you? It probably doesn’t feel that way, and I’m here to tell you that it probably isn’t a conscious choice. I am also here to tell you that with some work, it does not have to be your default setting.Some mental health issues are genetic: you may know that bipolar and schizophrenia are hereditary, but did you know that scientists also believe that depression can be inherited as well?We may learn bad mental health habits like repressing our feelings from our families, and have no way to express anything other than anger when it all becomes too much because we’ve never seen any healthy alternatives. Other times, our issues areunhealthy coping mechanisms or survival techniques that we have learned from traumatic experiences, like codependence or PTSD. A significant group of us who need mental health services are victims of genetics, our environment, or an event that triggered us. We didn’t cause these things. We should feel no shame in getting help for them.

The thing about suffering from mental health issues is that we are generally just trying to survive. The way that we are is the only way that we know. It is hard to change but it is necessary if we want to get better and be able to stop surviving and start living. I know I was terrified to get help, but I’m really glad that I did. I feel better now. I may never be cured, but I can feel the difference in how I used to be and how I am now. Life does not seem so overwhelming to me anymore. Things that used to upset me are now easier to put into perspective. I needed that for myself, and I wish that so very much for you.