As I spoke with a friend today, something occurred to me. Why is a mental health diagnosis so hard to accept? What is it specifically about mental illness that nobody wants to talk about or admit? I’ve had my own reservations about it and I even find myself to be a bizarre abnormality. I’ll explain why.
It took me almost 8 months to seek help. I knew I was falling about. I felt out of control. I couldn’t admit to myself that there was something wrong enough that I may need a little extra assistance from a doctor or therapist. The people that knew me best… my husband, my closest friends, none of them with all their honest, gentle or forceful words could push me to admit that there was a problem. Despite all that, I still spoke about it online. I blogged about it. I posted on social media about the hurt and pain. Through all that I still couldn’t see it until I reached a point where I said NO MORE. I can’t do this. So I went. Eight months. Eight freaking months of pain. Why? I’ll tell you why. The stigma. The stigma that if you seek help you are WEAK. If I spoke in a blog about my troubles then I felt like I was communicating to those I loved without showing weakness. I didn’t want to feel the hurt. I didn’t want to feel like I was giving up. I was SO VERY WRONG.
Admitting that you need help makes you STRONG. You may not feel strong when it happens but maybe it’s because you aren’t in a place where you can. Being strong enough to say help me means that you hand over control to someone else. You are showing you are vulnerable. You are showing your pain. Being able to share that vulnerability and pain will build you into an unbreakable vessel. You just have to get there.
So I went through that entire process. It took me almost a full year of broken up visits to a therapist. I learned things about myself that became AHA moments. I learned how to cope. I learned how to feel. I learned how to push my anger aside and look deeper. After that year I felt invincible. I felt back to normal armed with these amazing tools that I know will get me through anything…
So why after going through all that and feeling so strong, powerful, INVICIBLE! did I struggle to fill out a form yesterday at my surgeon’s office?
Whoaa!!! I just stared at it. Did I qualify for that? Do I check it? I don’t think I can check it. I spent about 10 minutes filling out the rest of the form before I decided to go back to that section. I thought it over, took a deep breath and finally accepted that it was a yes. Then after it all, I worried about how that would impact the rest of my visit or future visits with this doctor. Was it something that I had to worry about for my future or was I past this? After two years it hasn’t been easy to accept that I fall under that category but you know what? I’m proud I checked that box. No one wants to have mental illness but admitting you were there and recognizing it without fear, that is true power over your demons.
Where am I going with all this? Mental illness isn’t a game. If you have a friend who is going through anxiety, depression or anything else, you can’t just tell them to stop being a downer and cheer up. The best you can do is to lend a listening ear. Check in. Make sure they know they are loved. Don’t tell someone they are being dramatic or that they are looking for attention. No one wants to experience anxiety or depression. Admitting you have it is step one. Treating it is a whole other matter. If a friend or loved one is suffering from that or any other illness, so don’t be afraid to talk to them. Sometimes it’s the best and only thing you can do to show support.