Talking About Mental Illness

Mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of, but unfortunately many of us are. It often feels like if only we can just get our shit together, or just exercise enough willpower, everything will be better. It makes us feel weak. At least, that’s how it makes me feel. It makes me feel guilty when I miss out on birthday parties, weddings, and important things. And boy, have I missed a lot of those.

I’ve experienced more shame, guilt, and self-loathing than I thought was humanly possible to handle.

And I’ve been mostly silent about it, except to the few people who I am closest with.

I don’t post about it on Facebook, and when I get invited to events I either just pretend like I didn’t get the invitation, scramble in my head for socially acceptable excuses as to why I can’t go, or I bite the bullet and confide in them the real reason why I can’t go.

Usually people are very kind and understanding when you confide in them; but I have gotten the occasional, “buck the fuck up,” or, “you just need to get the fuck over it.” Yeah, I don’t really feel safe talking to those people anymore.

I know that I’m not the only person that has these problems, but it sure as hell feels like it sometimes. I know that people have it even worse than I do, but most of the time it feels unlikely. I also don’t think we should be constantly comparing and pitting our problems against those of other people.

I know that I’m an intelligent, good natured human being, but I feel like all of my good qualities are overshadowed by the fact that I deal with panic so frequently. I often feel as though every good thing I do doesn’t matter because it’s undermined by this huge dark cloud of panic that constantly looms over me.

But that’s ridiculous, because if I was talking to someone else dealing with what I am, I wouldn’t think less of them for it. If it was someone else, I would commend them, and I would encourage them to keep going. And I’m proud of every single person who comes out to the people in their lives about their mental illness(es), and those brave people who are courageous enough to talk about it.

Talking about it is hard.

Just writing about my experiences with it is hard, because there’s a small part of me that is reliving the experiences by bringing them back up. But I think it’s important to bring those experiences up, to share them, and to let other people know that just because we deal with these problems doesn’t make us any less valuable. It doesn’t decrease our worth, and it doesn’t make us lesser than anyone else. Hell, it makes us stronger. It gives us perspectives that many will never be able to have. I think it has given me more compassion for other human beings. It has made me appreciate little things. It has forced me to think deeper, to work harder, and to become more resilient.

So why am I so ashamed to tell people about it?

Why do I feel guilty about this part of myself?

Why do I feel so alone most of the time?

I get scared that people will think less of me. I get scared that if people know that I didn’t leave my house for six months they will never take me seriously again, or will just give me that humiliating look of pity. I get scared that people will think I belong in a mental institution. I get scared that I’ll end up with even less friends than I already have. I get scared that I’ll be harshly judged and criticized. I get scared of what people will say to each other about me when I’m not around.

But as I have opened up to people and talked about what I’m going through, I’ve found that people aren’t so horrible. In fact, most people I’ve talked to have experienced panic attacks and anxiety themselves. Most people find something in my story to relate to. Most people are actually really awesome. And most people seem to feel honored that you’re sharing something so personal, and that you trust them enough to be vulnerable with them.

So I’m working on it. I’m planning on sharing this blog with people I know in real life. That kind of terrifies me, but my current goal in life is to make fear my bitch, and sharing my story with other people doesn’t hold a candle to the crazy amount of exposure therapy and pushing myself to conquer my fears and phobias that I’ve been doing. When I compare all the other stuff I’ve been doing, sharing my story doesn’t seem so bad at all.

Even if people end up scoffing at my experiences, I can deal with it.

If people sneer or make fun of me, that is on them, not me.

Because I’m learning how to not let myself be defined by fear anymore. I’m learning how to become more self-confident, and how to be more sure of myself. I’m learning to have more trust in myself. I’m learning that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. And I’m not ashamed of any of those things.

If anything, I think that talking about it, and being open, is incredibly liberating. It kind of sets you free. I know that when I tell a friend about what I’ve been dealing with, I feel a little bit lighter. I feel like I don’t have to hide so much. It makes me feel a little bit less abnormal and weird. It feels good to feel accepted, for all of me to be accepted, even my darkest flaws.

Have you struggled with mental illness, and if so, what have been your experiences in talking to people about it? What do you wish people understood about mental illness? Please share in the comments! Thank you!

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