I try to be as open as possible about my battles with depression and anxiety. After all, I have a whole website where I share these stories and where I invite others to do the same. Yet it is a mistake to think that because of these factors, that I have somehow beaten the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
Stigma still stings, no matter how open you are about your battles. It stings because people act like sharing your story is somehow brave, when it should be common place. It stings when I struggle with finding the right balance in my professional life, since that world still looks at mental illness negatively instead of understanding how productive individuals can be while living with their mental illnesses.
Stigma still stings when I hear people say, “everyone gets sad,” or, “you are just being lazy,” or, “you don’t really need that medicine you are taking.” And just because I know all these statements are wrong, doesn’t mean they aren’t hard to hear. Because mental illness lies so incredibly well, especially when others are voicing similar sentiments.
Stigma still stings when I see the statistics of those who have lost the battle and died by suicide. It stings knowing how easily I could have been among those statistics, if not for a few caring people who reached out to me in the darkness.
Stigma still stings our society when we think about how many lives have been lost unnecessarily because of mental illness, because of how many people are held out of the workforce because they chose to open up about their battle rather than fight in silence. It stings when we think about how many people unnecessarily end up in a prison system instead of getting the help they need, a byproduct of the fact stigma makes it so easy to fund police, and so hard to provide adequate funding to mental health care.
Stigma still stings.
And that is why I speak out, why others are doing the same, and why it is so important that we finally end the stigma.
Thanks, as always, for listening. Thank you for keeping an open mind and doing your part to end the stigma as well.
Until next time, be well.