I interrupt my regular broadcasting to write to you today instead of my regular Thursday programming. Today, October 10th, is mental health day. Everyone is responsible for taking care of their mental health, but I would like to shine a light, today of all days, on the importance of taking care of your mental health when you are a sufferer of mental illness.
The reason I started this blog in the first place was as a result of all the stigma surrounding mental illness. It’s this very stigma that makes people suffering with mental health issues feel so incredibly isolated. I decided I didn’t feel like hiding from my friends and extended family anymore. I didn’t want to tiptoe around and make excuses for why I wasn’t able to make it out to dinner the other night, or why I wasn’t participating in group conversations last week when usually I’m so social. Frankly, I was really tired of dodging and lying. My loved ones deserved better, and more importantly so do I.
Since starting this blog I’ve been approached by strangers who have been struggling with the exact same things I have been struggling with, they’ve approached me in the spirit of comradery, because they no longer feel alone and want me to know that I am not alone either. I have made new friends, friends who I can talk to in a way that I can’t really talk to my other friends – because they have experienced, and continue to experience, the fears and trials that I do on a daily basis. I have opened up to family, and gained a sense of self confidence I did not have before – because I am no longer hiding.
No, my Anxiety Disorder does not define me, but it is a very big part of my daily life. It is not a character trait, but it does affect how I interact with the people around me. When I am no longer trying to hide this fact of my existence from those around me, I am no longer having to hide my thoughts, my reasoning, or even my actions from the people that actually want to be a part of my life.
I believe that the more we open up about mental health, the easier it will be for others to come forward, to get help, to speak out and find a sense of confidence within themselves.
Even more importantly – the more we speak out about mental health, the more recognition it will get. I hate it when people who don’t know any better brush off anxiety and depression as just ‘feelings’. I have been told countless times to just ‘get my shit together’ or get a handle on my ‘emotions’. Its belittling, and frankly a very uneducated statement to make. These individuals assume that just because they cannot see my scars, my hurt, my turmoil, it must not be real. Just because it is not tangible to you, does not mean that my struggle is not very real. Opening up isn’t just going to help me, it is going to educate my coworkers, my old-school family members (because let’s face it, mental illness wasn’t a thing back in mother USSR), and yes, even some of my closest friends who had no idea what any of this was before I started explaining it.
I don’t blame you if you do not know – it’s kept so hush hush, behind closed doors, something taboo that we don’t speak about, so how could you possibly understand that there is a chemical imbalance in my brain driving these tumultuous emotions? You can’t, or couldn’t. But I’m telling you now, so there are no more excuses.
To those of you who have kept silent, or maybe didn’t even quite understand what it is you are going through, you are not alone. We are many, and there is help out there, you only need to be willing to find it and then take the step to accept it.
If you suffer from mental illness take some time today to ensure that you have a good mental health day. Meditate, enjoy the outdoors, read a book, catch up on your favourite shows, reflect on all that you have to be grateful for, all the little things that surround you that make life so incredibly worth living.