Continuing to Fight the Stigma

Sometimes, like tonight, I find myself stuck inside a hole.

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I find myself sitting in the dark unable to leave my bed as if my legs are nailed to the mattress. I can’t focus on anything besides how hollow I feel and how stupid or ugly or worthless I am.

Even when I know I’m not, when every part of me fights it- some nights like tonight, I just can’t seem to win.

And for most of you, this news will surprise you.

Most of you have a picture in your brain of depression, of anxiety- of mental health as a whole.

And that’s why I’m posting this: to challenge you.

Mental health is so much more complex than your surface thin definition of it.

And generalizing it is how the stigma is perpetuated.

We are not the “crazy” people in white jumpsuits stuck in an asylum.

We are not broken.

There is no stamp on our foreheads that can help you determine us from someone else.

We are among you and we’re all different.

To assume my perspective is identical to anyone else is to negate my experiences. And that’s the problem.

That’s why there’s other people just like me hiding in their rooms, unsure of who they can reach out to because inevitably no one seems to understand.

If I define myself as someone who suffers with depression- I will automatically have to take on the pressure that comes with it by society.

My credibility within my job will be questioned- although those who know me know my competence will never be compromised by my sadness, and my anxiety often helps rather than hinders my abilities to accomplish things.

Those who have known me all my life will suddenly start to analyze me when we meet for lunch- as if I’m a stranger they’ve only known for two months.

The stigma that comes along with labeling ourselves is what keeps so many of us from reaching out.

I have experienced depressive states during various periods in my life, and I continue to. like tonight.  

But I have not been diagnosed “officially.”

My diagnosis hangs heavily on something called  ‘premenstrual dysphoric disorder’ or PMDD.

Which means my doctor correlates my depression and anxiety with the chemical imbalances within my body.

But that diagnosis, or lack thereof, doesn’t lessen my experiences.

It doesn’t change the fact that for a week once a month I am entirely a different person. I am lost and anxious and hide from myself in the mirror. I will ignore your calls and tell you “nothing’s wrong” when in fact inside it feels like everything is but I can’t pinpoint a single explanation.

It doesn’t change the fact I feel so hollow I cannot breathe- and yes I know how exaggerated that may feel to you. But I wish you could take a step in my body when it’s happening.

And maybe that’s why I’m disclosing so much more than I wanted to you.

Because you can’t take on our lives and feel it for yourself- but you can take my word for it.

You can listen to our stories and try to take something away from them.

You can learn that we aren’t one single identity but rather millions of diverse ones. You can learn that we are all fighting our own battles and we need support on our side.

From all of this, I guess I’m asking you to open up yourself to the possibilities of lives other than your own. I’m asking you to look into the myths of mental health- to find out how you can become an ally to those around you.

I am asking you to become aware, to reach out and see how someone’s doing, to allow yourself to be okay with not being okay. I’m asking you to check in on your own status- how are you feeling lately? To be open to the idea of seeking help or even just letting someone know,

“Ya know, today I feel like crap, but that’s okay.”

Because we’re not superhuman.

And it’s okay not to be okay sometimes.

Breaking the stigma will help us conquer battles many of us weren’t aware we even had.

I challenge you to become an ally.

To debunk the myth.

To let your best friend know you’re there for them.

To tell someone how important they are to you.

To take a stand against the stigma.

You may not know the battle raging on within-

but that doesn’t mean you can’t help us fight it.

 

By BethAnn