My Struggles with Mental Illness

I feel like this year is going by pretty fast. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that it was snowing? Oh, wait, that happened at the beginning of April where I’m at.

Anyway, it’s May. Some schools are already letting out. Theme parks are starting to open. Summer is on its way (I’m excited about this one! I hate the cold!) Lightning bugs are finally lighting up the night. Barbeques are being lit.

It is also Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental health hasn’t always been taken seriously. Even now, some people don’t treat it as a serious issue, but at least people aren’t being lobotomized. So, that’s progress.

Mental illness has been a taboo subject for so long, but we are making strides towards stepping out of that shadow in how we act towards those who suffer. Many in our society are seeing mental and invisible illness as ACTUAL ILLNESSES THAT NEED TREATMENT just like any other illness. I mean, you wouldn’t tell someone with a broken bone to just “walk it off”. Why would you tell someone who suffers from depression “You wouldn’t be depressed if you would just think happy thoughts”?

Mental health awareness is a hot topic for me. I suffer from depression and clinical anxiety to the point that I have to take medication and go to therapy to help me cope. My son has ADHD and high functioning ASD. I have friends who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I have known people who were plagued by suicidal ideation. In seventh grade, a friend of mine actually attempted suicide. For someone to look me in the eye and tell me that people I care about who truly suffer are just “faking it” or just “need to get over it”… it makes me want to rage.

“You don’t look sick.” I know I don’t. I’m taking a daily pill for my depression and I have an anti-anxiety pill that I have in 3 different places to help stave off anxiety and panic attacks. I’m seeing a therapist several times a month to talk about things in hopes that we might come up with better ways for me to cope. I work in retail. I cannot afford to have my heart on my sleeve for the world to see. How would it look to a customer if they saw me in the middle of a panic attack because the customer before them yelled at me for something outside of my control? I have to take extra strides to hide all that I feel and think just to keep customers and coworkers happy.

I post about mental health awareness stuff a LOT on my personal social media. I will go into some details about my own illnesses. I try to explain to people who follow me things that will easily trigger an anxiety attack (like vague “I need you to call me” voicemails) or just how easily a person’s tone can affect the meaning of what they’re saying in my mind. I do this because I don’t think a lot of people realize just how common mental illness is, or that it can affect anyone, or that people react in different ways to it (just like any illness). I hope they understand why I act the way I do in different situations. That I “hide in my phone” not because I don’t want to socialize, but because it is one of the few ways of keeping my anxiety in check. It is a reprieve for when a normally volumed conversation sounds more like drums in my ears or when even a family member brushing up against me feels like electricity. When we have people over at my own house, I have moments where I honestly have to step away and hide in my room for a little bit because just the sound of someone putting their glass on the table is enough to make me flinch.

Guys, I fight with the “I’m a bad mother” argument all the time. And I mean that. No one has to tell me that for the feeling to worm its way into my brain and suffocate all other thoughts. It eats at me on a near daily basis, and I honestly can’t do anything to convince myself otherwise when that moment hits me. I lay down and sob until I just can’t cry anymore, and then I go into autopilot mode. I take care of my son the best I can, still telling myself that I’m just awful at this. There’s really nothing I can do about it. I just have to let it all run its course like a really bad cold.

This is why I fight for mental health awareness. This is why I am starting to talk more openly about my illnesses (not necessarily all the finer details, but still). This is why I want people to take this more seriously. Depression and clinical anxiety can’t just be willed away. Suicidal ideation isn’t a way for someone to get the attention they think they need or want. I mean, look at how many celebrities are opening up about their own mental illnesses. CARRIE FISHER HAD BIPOLAR DISORDER! Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson suffered from clinical depression. Ryan Reynolds has started talking about his own troubles with anxiety. This isn’t something we can just “stop thinking about” and suddenly we’re better. And the more people come to understand this, the more willing we will become to treat it like it truly is. An illness.

Before I go, I want to remind the readers who are struggling with their own mental illness that you are not alone. There are so many people going through what you are and understand how you feel. Your feelings are valid. You matter. You are loved. You deserve happiness. You are worthy.

Until next time…

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