In my last post, I admitted that I was having some very real issues after breaking my foot 8 weeks ago. I’ve since started talking with a counselor (actually chatting via secure message because it’s flexible and meets my schedule, which I’m loving) who’s helping me deal with them. I’ve been surprised, to say the least, by some of the private reactions I’ve gotten from friends, and decided to be part of the solution instead of the problem of keeping it silent.
Did you know that May is Mental Health month? Did you know that one in eight women will experience clinical depression at some point in their life (Source: MentalHealthAmerica.net)? That one in four Americans have a mental illness?
Depression is a real issue. It’s not simply being dramatic or a typical emotional woman. Clinical depression changes the chemical make up of your body, specifically your brain, so that you process the world differently. Every person’s depression is different. It’s their unique experience and story, but it is real.
Mine has felt like the world is physically closing in around me. Like I have no one on my side. There are days that I’ve physically not been able to get out of bed. I care so little about things I used to care about, I don’t even recognize myself. I’ve thrown myself into work because if I don’t, I’m not sure I’d leave my apartment for weeks. It’s terrifying. It’s lonely. It’s terrible.
Americans are not comfortable, broadly, talking about mental illness of any kind. This fact makes it even harder for someone to seek help, seek support, which, incidentally, also usually drives people further into depression. There is a stigma attached to admitting you are struggling, especially for women. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable to discuss. Especially on social media and in the blogging world, you are constantly surrounded by reminders to choose positivity, just be happy, to move the f*@& on. Friends stop reaching out because you are a downer, or make jokes about you being dramatic. Why would you admit it? You’re setting yourself up to lose even more than you feel like you have.
So this is my plea, as Mental Health Month comes to a close, if you know someone who is struggling with a mental health diagnosis or think they might be, talk to them about it. There’s a good chance they will push you away and say they are fine (see above), but if you love them, don’t stop. They’re not trying to be selfish, or self-centered. They’re probably scared, and feel like they’re a bother. But don’t tell them to be positive, or buck up, or just smile, because they can’t, even if they want to.