Living with a Mental Illness + Its Stigma
Have you ever heard of the saying, those who smile the most end up crying the most tears? It may not be true for every single case but for mine, indeed, it is.
In December 2009, I was diagnosed with Depression and an Anxiety Disorder. My diagnosis came after years of suffering from foreign feelings but not sure what was happening. I was 14 at the time and did not know much about mental illnesses other than the fact that my mother has one as did my uncle. It took a while for it to be diagnosed and once it was, I was fortunate enough to have a doctor who did not push prescription medication on me. Rather, she encouraged me to deal with my mental illnesses through natural ways like prayer, meditation, yoga, exercise and counselling.
See, on the outside I was and still am someone who smiles a lot, who is talkative with those whom she is comfortable with and charismatic so they say. I would do anything for my fellow man even for animals.
I struggled hiding it from people. I was one person behind closed doors than I am in the real world. I found that I was creating a dual identity, that I had two personalities not one. The thing which did not and still not sit right with me is the fact that hiding your mental illness is still considered the norm.
Why is that? Why should people hide something that is such a pivotal part of their identity? Yes, depression and anxiety lead to so many negative feelings BUT it is not all negative. Having it has taught me that there is always sunshine after the storm. It taught me to fight for a tomorrow, fight for another second because I am here for a reason. It has taught me that I'm perfectly imperfect and that's ok.
What hurts me the most is the stigma. Later on, when I would tell people they would say "I never would have guessed, you're always smiling." That is wrong. I am always smiling sure but is it a smile that fills my heart with happiness? Sometimes...no. It's my way to cope and not have the judgment come my way. What also bothers me is when people tell me "just pray, you're not depressed, mental illness isn't real" It is and guess what, having a chemical imbalance like myself is genetic! Of course I am praying for happier days and that a soul is never given what it cannot handle but that isn't the point. The point is, I feel deeply and sometimes it means feeling down.
The stigma against mental illness enables a lot like myself to not confide or trust in others. It closes doors that could have lead to open, thoughtful conversations and opens to ones that are filled with disconnect and unfeeling. I am a firm believer that the world is one unit created by many sub units. Human-kind must work towards opening their minds in order to function soundly.
Life is like a sinusoidal function. It goes up and down in order to progress into more periods.
To me, my depression and anxiety has allowed me to be thankful, be sympathetic and be aware of others. It has put so much into perspective in me.
I use this as a call to action to everyone especially young people. Learn more, be sympathetic and try to be understanding towards those in your life with mental health issues. You never know how much of an effect your words and actions can have on someone - positively and negatives.
I also call on everyone to quit the judgment, quit the blame game and quit selfishness as a whole. At the end of our lives, we will all end up on 1 of two places - hell or heaven and physically in the ground. Just remember that.
Spread love and peace not hate and envy. <3