Let’s talk. Because all to often we don’t. We don’t talk about our pain, we don’t talk about our struggles, we don’t talk about our personal battles because we don’t talk about mental illness. One in four adults suffer from a diagnosed mental illness in a given year. Now look around you…. at your colleagues, your family, your neighbor, your loved ones and your closest friends. One in four. And yet so many of us are completely oblivious to who is suffering around us. These stats should be alarming, but sadly our society silences these ‘problems’.
Mental illness is not a problem, mental illness is not a choice, mental illness is not a simple change of attitude. Mental illness is an illness. An illness, like any other, that requires help and support. But where is this support? Trying to ‘handle it yourself’, trying to ‘stop thinking about it’, and trying to ‘calm down’ are not solutions. Would you expect someone suffering from Cerebral Palsy or Diabetes to get over it or handle it themselves? So why should mental illness be any different. It shouldn’t. Sadly in a world where we idolize perfection, we equate unhappiness to imperfection. The very thing that unites us all. We are all imperfect, we are all human and we all struggle. Yet we are afraid to speak out because of the undeniable stigma still still exists around mental illness. Instead of feeling understood, accepted and supported in our struggles, we struggle to pretend we are fine.
So I’ll talk. Many times I have not been fine. I suffered from a random panic attack months after being in a serious car accident. It left me experiencing emotions I not did not anticipate let alone understand. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness and knowledge around my experience only made me feel more confused, more anxious and more unlike ‘myself’ when these moments of anxiety hit. This was only heightened after a second car accident. Panic attacks were no longer something I didn’t understand, they were something I experienced several times in a few short months. I finally spoke to someone about it and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It wasn’t common (so I thought) so I didn’t vocalize my struggle at first. But when I realized how much support I had once I opened up to others, it was impossible for me to hide behind a facade anymore. I chose to speak out.
It wasn’t long after that I had my son and struggled with Post Partum Depression. Another battle I did not anticipate. The hardest part was that it wasn’t something I woke up with overnight. It wasn’t something I was able to see with clarity and understanding. It was a gradual decline over months that left me confused and doubting my own emotions and own thoughts. One bad day seemingly blended into a bad week and before I knew it I felt lost in months of frustration, anger, sadness and denial. The mind can be your best friend and your worst enemy and sometimes all in the same day. I would convince myself that I was fine, yet there wasn’t a single part of me that recognized or believed my own words. I sought help faster this time and was able to get the tools I needed to emerge from this dark place in my mind. Knowledge is power. I was able to see the beauty past the pain again. But it’s not always that easy for some, especially those who can’t hear their own voice anymore. So be that voice for others. Speak out. It’s not about putting an end to mental illness. It’s about putting an end to judgement, putting an end to the stigma and putting an end to the ignorance. We are only human.