“Get over it.”
How often have we said that to ourselves, our loved ones, our friends? “Put it behind you,” or “Don’t dwell on it,” spoken with love and the best intentions, yet those words often do more harm than good.
It’s not that easy, you see. I worry about stupid things, like sleeping in and not making it to an appointment on time, I check to see if I have my apartment and car keys over and over before I shut the doors behind me. I obsess about my weight, and sometimes I feel an overwhelming sense of impending doom. It doesn’t make me crazy. It’s my anxiety. It’s a thing. It has a name, and it’s not as easy to “put behind me” as putting one foot in front of the other.
Anxiety. Depression. Mental illness. I live it every day, and it’s rarely easy.
After the meltdown back in August, I felt like I was managing just fine but when I couldn’t get to sleep at night and couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, it got to be a bit of a problem – especially with a 5:20am alarm and things that need doing. After hiding my “crazy” for so long, it was liberating and terrifying to talk openly about how I’d been feeling. As I opened up to friends and family, I came to realize that I wasn’t alone.
When I first wrote about it here, I was afraid of the reaction I might get – I was afraid I’d be defined by my anxiety. Instead, I’ve been empowered by it and I wish nothing more than for others who feel that impending sense of doom to reach out for help. It’s easier to weather the storm when you have an anchor.
I recently made the decision to take antidepressants after a lot of thinking (and a lot of sleepless nights). I was proud of myself for coping naturally, through exercise and by writing but I’m too tired to be the hero right now. I’m sure that there are some who will uphold the stigma of mental illness, and that really sucks for them, and it sucks for those around them. You’d probably be surprised at the number of people who struggle with anxiety and depression – and you may be surprised to learn that you’ll probably experience it in your lifetime, though it may not be as pronounced as it is for others.
We don’t shame people suffering from cancer, diabetes or multiple sclerosis, so why the Hell are we shaming people with mental illness? It’s time to stop.
It’s time to be shameless.