Mental illness is one of those “hush-hush” topics that very few are completely open about. There is a very small percentage of people out there that would willingly stand up and discuss what living with mental illness is like. Why? Well, because we have all grown up in a world that is often blind to the idea that our brains are wired differently. To talk about the flaws in our minds is admitting to some kind of problem in the first place, and too many people are afraid to admit that they may need help.
Ending the Stigma
Although mental health has come a long way, it is unfortunately still a taboo topic for a large percentage of the world. As someone who battles mental illness, I am here to tell you that it is not a death sentence. It is simply just an obstacle that we can survive if we are willing to do the necessary work to stay on top of it.
Mental Illness ranges in all shapes and sizes. It does not discriminate, and no case is the same. So much of what we struggle with has to do with the guilt or shame we feel toward things that have occurred in our lives. We are a product of our environment, and we have been shaped by the experiences we have lived through from our childhood into adulthood. How we choose to cope with life, and what it has in store for us, can also have a large impact on our mental health, making our choices a big factor when it comes certain struggles.
Keep in mind that mental illness can also be hereditary, meaning that mental illness can be completely out of your control. Mental, emotional, physical, you name it — they all can be followed by the word “illness,” so why is it that we are so hard on those that have an illness of the mind? It’s about time that we start to change this way of thinking.
Speaking Out for Myself and Others
I made the choice a long time ago that I was going to discuss mental illness because, in the process of understanding myself, I have made it a goal to speak honestly after a lifetime of keeping secrets. I have been able to reach others, and remind them that they are not alone in some of their intrusive thoughts, or compulsive actions. I certainly do not have all the answers, but I am not afraid to ask important questions.
It wasn’t until I accepted that I struggle with substance use disorder that I quickly learned I was always self-medicating for my mental disorder(s). This is not unusual, and according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 7.9 million adults in the United States had co-occurring disorders in 2014. The research that has been done so far on mental illness is rather alarming and eye-opening when it comes to the number of people who are walking around undiagnosed, wondering what is “wrong” with them. This is why we must talk about these kinds of problems.
Take Action to See Change
The only way to fix something, or at least do our best to maintain it, is by removing the current stigma, and be understanding when it comes to matters of the mind. To fault someone based on a circumstance that is out of their control is cruel and unjust. We don’t point at someone with a broken leg and blame them for not being able to walk. Why is it OK to point at someone with a mental disorder and blame them for not being able to just “get over it”? It does not work like that, and we need to start seeing that the initial problem is much deeper, and much more complex than a fleeting moment.
Asking for help from a professional, finding someone close to talk to, and seeking out information for symptoms that you may be experiencing — these are nothing to be ashamed about. In fact, it is courageous of you and brave to even start the process of getting better. What’s important is that you realize that mental illness is not a death sentence. It is simply a semicolon in the story of your life, allowing you to continue on.