Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Stigma is Real

Tonight, while trying to defend another mother, I was told to "take my mental health issues somewhere else." This person knew about my personal struggles because I had used them as an example in a comment trying to give the mom I was defending some advice.

Here's the thing. People who think mental health struggles can be slung at others as an insult are the same people who contribute to the stigma that so desperately needs to be broken. I guarantee that had I been talking about a physical disease, this person would not have said a word about it, because in their minds I wouldn't have anything to be ashamed of.

I don't write this for pity or because my feelings were hurt - they weren't. I write because this person was a harsh reminder of the fact that there are plenty of people who see mental health as something to be ashamed of instead of a disease that should be as normal to talk about as any physical ailment. This is why we have awareness days. This is why so many have gotten semicolon tattoos. This is why mental health should be discussed daily.

Along with this blog, I run a Bipolar Disorder Support Group on Facebook and am always amazed at how many people feel like they are alone and come to the group because they are seeking others like them. I see numerous people a day state in the entry questions that they want to join the group because no one understands or because they feel like there isn't anyone else out there "like them."

If only they knew.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the U.S. have experienced at least one major depressive episode. 35% of those people did not receive any medical treatment. (2017) On the CDC website, it states that suicide has been the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the US since 2008. In 2016 it became the second leading cause of death in ages 10-34 and the fourth in ages 35-54.

Did you read that? I'll say it again - suicide is the second leading cause of death for people as young as TEN years old.

Something HAS to change. People with mental health issues need to know that they aren't alone. And that won't happen until we start talking about it openly. Yes, there will always be people like the one I ran into tonight, but that shouldn't stop us. It should motivate us. We have the power to start a conversation, and the more people we get to talk about mental health openly and comfortably, the more people will realize that they have nothing to be ashamed of and that they aren't alone.

Because that's what matters - making sure that people know they shouldn't be ashamed and even more importantly, they aren't alone. Let's create a world where people like the one I ran into tonight are far and in between  It will save lives.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Finding the Joy

During an Easter Weekend filled with sunny days, fun times and Jesus, I felt guilty. Guilty because I desperately wanted to be consumed with as much joy as my husband and children, but it just wasn't all there. Yes, I was happy and yes, I was enjoying my precious time with family. But I wanted more. I wanted to feel uplifted and full. Instead I was running on half empty.

Why is it that someone with mental health issues has so much trouble finding the FULL joy during amazing parts of life? I had no reason to struggle over the weekend. Everything was near perfect, yet there were times where I had to force smiles, reassure that everything was fine and internally feel guilty for both.

But is the guilt warranted? I'm honestly not sure. On one end, I can't help how I feel. There is no switch I can flip, no happy thought to uplift my mind and spirit. But then, I feel like I should be able to find the joy when everything is good. And that's what the weekend was - good! Beyond good, actually.

Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself and maybe I should be kinder towards my feelings. But man, it's hard. Especially when everyone around me has that spark. When you can tell that the are truly and completely happy and I'm just not.

Even as I sit here today, I look back on the weekend and wish I had soaked it all in. That I was able to ingrain every smile, every laugh, every piece of happiness that everyone else saw. That I could see through the mental health fog and have a clear view of the absolute joy in front of me.

But, so goes my days with these diseases of the mind. And despite my guilt and disappointment in myself, I do think that I will remember this Easter weekend as good. As a time that my family saw everything clearly, even if I didn't. And knowing that brings me a little more joy than I had before. Because even if it wasn't perfect for me, I hope it was nearly perfect for them.