4 Lies People Believe About The Mental Health Community

It’s not a surprise that there is a stigma against mental health, but it shouldn’t be a battle that mental health patients should have to face.

I’ve battled with depression in my past, and not but a year later after I was diagnosed with a rare disease, I suffer from anxiety. Lots of things have probably attributed to my mental health like emotional abuse, my ex-relationship, toxic family, and things that have been hard for me to overcome.

I, along with millions of others in the mental health community are tired. We’re tired of the bias, the lies that people believe about our mental illness, and the endless reasons we must make up for missing work or a gathering because most people won’t take our mental health seriously.

I believe that in shedding some light on those lies below, it will help de-stigmatize mental illness and open us up for more unashamed conversation.

1. If we share our reality, we are in some way seeking attention.

Whoever has said that someone is seeking attention because they’re struggling mentally lacks a string of empathy—empathy that could mean a matter of life or death for someone. Our reality is real—and our feelings are valid.

Any kind of attention we’re seeking is because we’re seeking help. And we certainly do not have to struggle in silence. We know that just because no one else can heal or do our inner work for us, it doesn’t mean we have to do it alone—therefore we vulnerably share what we’re going through.

2. When we make some improvement, we were faking our mental struggle all along.

Don’t forget that at one point, our only relief was sleep. Our struggle was real, is real, and faking a mental illness is of no benefit to us or anyone else’s life. Making improvements in our mental illness is beautiful progress, and it is not to be misinterpreted as faking a mental illness. Some of us have fought for our lives while battling our inner demons. Some of us, like myself, had suicidal thoughts in our darkest hour and have self-harmed multiple times. So when we make an improvement, we’ve realized our life is worth living and you can’t fake that kind of reality. These things are as real as anything else in the world and the progress matters to us. Every time you think someone is faking their mental illness, you’re a part of the problem, not the solution.

3. If we stay in our depression, anxiety, or other mental health issue, we’re not trying hard enough.

No one wants to suffer from a mental illness, but it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to have bad days and be less than perfect. It’s okay to do what’s best for our mental health even when that looks like we’re not trying to others. Everyone’s effort looks different. For some, it’s going outside and feeling the sunburn their face and for others, it’s getting out of bed for the first time in a week and drinking a cup of coffee.

And for some, it’s merely an effort to stay alive.

We’re trying. Trying is not giving up—and that’s all that matters.

4. If we keep the struggle to ourselves, then we’re not really suffering.

Just because we keep our feelings to ourselves, doesn’t mean we wish to heal alone in our mental illness. It’s not an easy thing to open up about what we’re going through because we feel we’ll be rejected.

Mental illness is not easily seen. We don’t have a runny nose, fever, or a rash where someone will easily run to us with a warm towel or Tylenol. We long to be able to express something we can’t explain, and we ache for help.

People with a mental illness know what it means to feel alone no matter how much support we may actually have. We struggle with accepting help from those that love us because we don’t want to be a burden.

Mental health will always matter. Whether it affects your brain, your arm, or your heart, it’s still an illness that needs to be addressed with just as much care.

Everyone is going through something and everybody has had something they’ve had to overcome.

There is hope, even when our minds tell us there isn’t. The fact that we’re still making it to work, caring for our families, being there for our friends, while still battling inexpressible pain is strength, not a weakness.

People will believe what they want to believe about the mentally ill—no one can really change that.

But we can let people know how truly precious they are. We can be a part of the change for good and give people a reason to have hope again.

Because hope should never be lost.

Leaving My Job Was The Hardest Decision Since My Diagnosis

Teaching is my calling. I’ll never forget my years as a paraprofessional because I always wanted to be the teacher. Each teacher inspired me in different ways and in August of 2018, I finally became a special ed teacher. I always saw the possibilities of students with disabilities. They are my heart and soul and I will spend my life showcasing their strengths, not their deficits.

My first year of teaching was amazing. I thrived under pressure and loved every second of it until May came around – and I started throwing up.

My first summer off as a teacher was hell. I pictured myself bathing in the hot sun enjoying my fair share of piña coladas and instead I spent most of the summer in cold ER rooms with confused doctors. I had a severe migraine the entire summer, couldn’t eat or see in one eye and spent the majority of my time throwing up or crying. Most teachers don’t want summer to end, but I couldn’t wait for it to be over. When August 2019 started, I threw up for a week and in September, I was symptom-free eager to teach my second year and put the roller-coaster months behind me.

The roller coaster wasn’t over. When mid-October rolled around, I experienced a month-long migraine, went half-blind again, and ended up in the hospital for a week. I was finally diagnosed with Devic’s disease (or NMO) after my MRI scans showed lesions of the brain, severe inflammation behind my eye, and positive blood results. NMO mainly affects the spinal cord and the optic nerves – the nerves that carry signals from the eyes to the brain. As a result, the disease can cause paralysis and blindness.

Though enduring this disease is truly one of the most difficult and painful things I’ve ever faced, sometimes pain isn’t always the worst part about chronic-illness.

My illness has left me feeling inadequate as a teacher. The time I missed from work was time stolen with my students that I’ll never get back. I started to forget my students laugh and missed the warmth their hugs brought to my heart.

I started a chemotherapy treatment called Soliris and though it has prevented another attack, it has made me weak no matter how much I’ve changed my nutrition. I felt horrible day after day by how much time I missed and not being there for my students. So with a broken heart, I had to say goodbye to them and a school that became instant family.

They became the kind of family that when I had a mental breakdown nearing a panic attack on the floor of my classroom, my assistant principal was by my side in a minute holding my hand trying to get me to deep breathe. It was those moments that kept me holding on until the end.

The thing about being a teacher with a chronic-illness is that you have to learn when you’ve done your part, and when it’s time for someone else to step in to give your students the best education possible.

There comes a point when you realize your students deserve better than what they’re getting from you no matter how much you will miss them. Yes, I miss their smiles, their questions, their struggles and their aha moments. Every time I packed up something in my classroom, my heart stung. My student’s tears became my tears, and those last few days wrecked me. I pray the next teacher sees just how unique and wonderful each of them are.

I know I can’t control what this disease does to me, the side effects from treatment, or the fact that I am visually impaired, but deep down, I know I can give so much more and this is why I left. Right now, I’m in the thick of this disease figuring out what works and what doesn’t – and I need to rest. For now, I’ll sub in the district I live in on the days I feel strong and rest on the days I can’t, and hope for disability benefits.

I’ll continue to trust in God’s timing and when he thinks I’m strong enough to have my own classroom again. The prior hour drive weakened me before I even made it to work. I dragged daily, barely able to pull one foot in front of the other and it showed. Feeling embarrassment while walking the hallways was inevitable.

And so, I will wait. I will heal. I will be strong for the students in my future because they will deserve no less.

I know color will come soon where there is a whole lot of grey.

I know I will be Mrs. Wall again.