Mental Illness Doesn't Wear One Mask
TW: mental illness, insensitivity towards mental illness
I went to an appointment with a coordinator of my school's mental health clinic thinking she was a psychologist. I walked into the office a bit confused as there were no comfortable seats or couches, just a desk with a few computers. When we started to talk I immediately recognized she had no appropriate training in the realm of mental health.
"Listen," she said, "It looks to me like you pretty much have your life together, I don't think that the mental health clinic is really something you need". In that moment, I wanted to speak out, but I was completely frozen by the insensitivity of her comment. How could she assume so much about my experience of the world only 5 minutes after meeting me? After giving myself some time to sit with those words, I now would like to talk about an issue that is very important to me.
Anxiety and depression, and all forms of mental illness do not wear one mask. What I mean by this is that each person who experiences mental health issues do not all look, talk, or act the same. They may have similar experiences, but they do not appear one certain way. The reason this comment was so hurtful to me was because people with mental illness oftentimes do feel like they do not have their life together, and absolutely nobody deserves to feel that way.
For a very long time I have experienced anxiety. I was diagnosed with GAD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, in my junior year of high school after having a few panic attacks and recognizing that not everyone lives with the daily amount of worry that I do. It is not easy to deal with, and accompanied by my worsening chronic back pain are more episodes of depression. When I find myself beginning to feel depressed or anxious, I try to remind myself of the tools I learned in therapy. Deep breath in through your nose, exhale through your mouth. You are going to feel down sometimes and that is ok. Take care of yourself, take a warm shower, light a candle, bring yourself to your peaceful place to meditate.
I want to take this moment to directly engage with the readers who experience mental health issues. You are absolutely strong and worthy of love and a very happy life. Waking up this morning and waking up every morning, even just getting out of your bed once is an accomplishment. I am so proud of you for that. I was talking on the phone with my sister last night and she reminded me of something very important. Having one bad day does not erase the months of good ones. Healing is not linear. Doing something every single day to take care of yourself and showing yourself some love can make a big difference. Your feelings and thoughts are valid. You are not alone.
Now, to everyone reading this, I may ask of you one simple thing. Please think twice when you use words like "crazy", "insane", "triggered", "nuts", and others that are similar. I am still working on this myself. These words have been used in the past and today to discriminate against and put down people who experience mental illness. This is not about being politically correct, this is an issue of being sensitive and aware. You, nor I, do not know everything about everyone around you- even the people you are close to. I think we can all work on being a better listener, both to others and to yourself.
Below is a link to some hotlines that can be useful if you or someone you know are experiencing mental illness and several other issues.