Let’s talk. We need to open up and get comfortable about discussing mental health. We need to not be afraid of expressing our true feelings because of how we will be perceived by others. We need to not be so quick to judge other people. We need to talk about this…honestly, openly, without guilt or shame.
The rate of suicide has been increasing in the United States. This is a startling trend. I have been perplexed by this and also incredibly sadden to learn just how many people are struggling. The deaths of people I’ve admired, like Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and most recently Anthony Bourdain have greatly effected me. It goes to show that even those who seem to “have it all” are hurting so deeply that they believe the world would be better off without them and their gifts.
After these tragedies, traditional and social media lights up with discussions on mental health, what it means and what you can do to help those who seem to be having a tough time. This lasts for about a week until something new comes along. Now, once again, the conversation gone quiet and those struggling with mental illness have returned to the shadows to suffer in silence, but we need to keep talking about this.
When we think about what the main cause of death in the United States, we tend to think heart disease, cancer and other physical illnesses. However mental illness is rarely discussed even when suicide is the 10th most leading cause of death. On average, 123 people take their own lives everyday and yet this is a taboo subject. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS.
There is a stigma around mental illness that doesn’t seem to be improving no matter how much the media talks about it after the tragic death of another celebrity. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate and touches all demographic groups. You or someone you love is struggling. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS.
Let me share with you a little bit about my struggles with anxiety and depression. A battle I fight every damn day.
I was always an anxious child. I remember having panic attacks about going to school, various activities, concerts, etc… You name it and I probably freaked out about it. This anxiety led to bouts with depression because I often felt that I wasn’t good enough or that I wasn’t worthy to be a part of things. I have never really felt like I “fit in” anywhere, which in turn caused more anxiety…and the cycle just continued.
If that wasn’t difficult enough, I struggled with pretty severe PTSD after September 11th having lived 5 blocks from the World Trade Center. I went years not being about to get on a plane and having severe panic attacks going over bridges and through tunnels. Basically anywhere I couldn’t make a quick an easy exit gave me incredible anxiety. I self medicated with alcohol and various drugs, which made me feel better in the moment, but made things worse overall because I would find myself in these depressive voids. I also became angry and judgmental because I was was looking to blame someone or something else for my struggles. I couldn’t admit that I was actually in control of these feelings.
With the help of proper medication and support from family and friends, I’m MUCH better but it still takes a lot of work to keep from losing my shit on a daily basis. I’ve done a lot of self reflection and continue to educate myself on ways to keep that anxiety at bay. I recognize when the “crazy” thoughts start making their way into my mind and begin to question why I’m feeling that way. Instead of keeping it all inside so it festers, I talk about it with my husband, my Mom, my best friend, my support group of friends online…my tribe of confidants who love me unconditionally and who will not let me take the easy way out. I work and I work because I am worth it. I owe it to my son and the people I love to be the best me I can be. The messy, neurotic, ridiculous me who loves the shit out of life and wants to enjoy every second.
So what can you do?
Share your story with whoever you feel comfortable with. Your partner, your mom, your friend, ME! Just tell someone and then it will get easier to tell the next person, and the next, until you no longer feel ashamed. It will be uncomfortable and awkward at first, but just do it. Own that anxiety and wear it like a badge.
Check on that friend. My friend Rebekah shared this and I can’t begin to express how much it resonated with me. I am that “strong friend” who never seems to struggle because I struggle in silence so as not to inconvenience anyone. Plus, being vulnerable sucks and I hate putting myself in that state…
I took my own advice and recently reached out to a friend who I felt was struggling. A few days later she told me how much it meant to her and how it turned her whole day around. You’d be surprised how much even a small text can help brighten someone’s day and let them know they are not alone. We’ve all been there and just giving someone that glimmer of light on the other side of whatever they are going through can help them to begin to emerge out of the dark.
So let’s keep talking ok? Let’s share our stories. Let’s support each other. Let’s pick each other up. The more you do, the better you will feel, I promise!
Just remember… You are not alone. Your struggles are real. Your pain is valid. You will persevere. Your life is worth living. People love you. I love you. We are here for you.