“You’re so brave.”
I’ve heard that quite a few times since becoming a mental health writer and advocate, one who writes about her own experiences with anxiety, bipolar depression, and mania. I don’t like the fact that disclosing my mental illness is a “brave” thing for me to do. I want it to be the norm, just as acceptable as saying you had braces or you have a sprained ankle.
It shouldn’t be taboo.
It shouldn’t be stigmatized.
It shouldn’t be a label that causes shame.
My intention with writing about my own experiences is not to appear brave, strong, or inspirational. I want to help break down the stigma that surrounds the “mentally ill”. I want people to see that diagnoses don’t have to limit what you are capable of achieving. Being depressed or bipolar doesn’t mean you can’t complete college or strive for grad school or push onward.
You are capable. You are strong. You are worthy.
That does not mean that I want to minimize the challenges that come with having mental illnesses, for the symptoms are really damaging in every aspect of life, from ability to work or do school to relationships and friendships to self-love to physical health. I’m not downplaying the difficulties and complexities associated with mental health challenges…
In a world that tells you that you are not capable due to your illness, I want you to believe in yourself, even if you are the only one that does so…
The truth is, many will doubt you. They will doubt that your “mental illness” is really a condition you have or even a real health condition itself. They will say you are making excuses rather than acknowledging your condition is real. Professors may say that you aren’t even ill or may say your goals are out of reach. Family members may think you are “doing it for attention”. Friends may distance themselves from you. Significant others may not be able to tolerate your episodes or take it as a personal failure if you aren’t “happy”.
Have patience. Educate those who care to listen. Cut those out of your life who attack you for your illness- toxic relationships aren’t worth it. Take care of yourself and don’t let anyone convince you that therapy or medications are not necessary… as with any health condition, mental illnesses are real and often require treatment with the aid of professionals. There is no shame in getting help.
Your illness may be a part of your life, but it does not have to define your life.