A topic I had once stayed quiet about now seemed to slowly be coming to the forefront of my life. I started to open up to friends about my struggles of the last year and a half; specifically the horrendous 2018 I was enduring.
One of my friends asked me, a bit hurt, “Why didn’t you say anything sooner?” While I appreciate the care and concern and I know the question was born from a desire to help in any way possible, it was kind of a ridiculous question. It’s like asking a drowning person why they didn’t yell for help. I couldn’t keep my head above water. How was I supposed to let others know I needed help?
During a recent lunch with a longtime friend, who also takes medication for mental illness, I shared my story and explained how frustrating it is to suffer from mental illness. “I’m a strong, independent woman. I don’t want to rely on medication,” I said defiantly. He said, “If this was your insulin…” I interrupted him. “I know, I know. Everyone always says ‘if you had diabetes you wouldn’t think twice about it.'” He nodded. “It’s part of the stigma still surrounding mental illness.”
Breaking the Stigma
I started thinking about what it meant to break the stigma. I thought maybe I should share my story, but I wasn’t ready yet.
Then I came home and saw another friend on Facebook shared a story about a family member going through withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and it called to me. I immediately decided it was time to start sharing my story. This Facebook post was the first time I ever talked openly about my mental illness. I was starting to break the stigma. So many people reached out to me privately to share their story, learn from mine and find ways to fight the good fight while finding the right medicines.
I was overwhelmed and blown away. What was most surprising to me, and I guess this is part of the stigma, how many people couldn’t believe I had a mental illness.
They said things to me like, “you seem like you have it all together” or “I would have never guessed behind that big smile you always have on your face.” My favorite was, “I was just looking at you the other day thinking you must be perfect.”
I had to laugh out loud. Never ever has anyone ever considered me anything close to resembling perfect. I don’t claim to be and know I’m far from it.
While my struggles are still closer than they appear in my rearview mirror, I’m finally stable. I had my last appointment with my mental health practitioner. I hugged her so tightly and thanked her for getting me to this place. I told her when I showed up in January, I was a crumpled up damaged puzzle of a person who wasn’t sure I would ever be whole again. I wouldn’t be where I am without her.
I’m grateful for my new mental health practitioner, my husband, my family and everyone who showed me support and love along the way. There’s always a chance medicinal changes will be necessary again later in my life, but I hope through the help of this new provider, I will stay stable and through sharing this story, others will get the necessary help they need.
Do You Need To Talk to Someone?
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, or text MHA to 741741 at the Crisis Text Line.
More resources here on how you can help a suicidal friend.