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.

Sometimes The Bravest Thing You Can Do Is Get Help

I can’t pinpoint when my depression started, but I would say it followed when I was diagnosed with lupus in 2013. I had started an independent life all on my own in the mountains of Colorado only to have to move back to my parent’s home a year later because I could barely pour a cup of coffee.

I ignored my depression for years after moving back home, blaming it solely on the fact that I was physically ill for life. But when medicine started working, and I could pour a cup of coffee without searing pain, my depression became naked.

Blaming it on my illness only lasted so long before the people closest to me could see the pain in my eyes – even when I was laughing.

I met the love of my life in 2016 and we married in sweet November of 2017. Our first year of marriage was a beautiful hot mess. We fought all the time. I cried a lot. He got frustrated. I threw things at doors. He cleaned up broken glass. We didn’t know how to communicate. I was sick – a lot. I winced every time someone awed us saying, “Enjoy that honeymoon stage.” And then, my depression woke up – I hid it under my pillow every night until it was no longer comfortable.

I began to self-harm in 2018 and I did it six times. Every moment was different, but every moment I felt the same hopeless feeling. My brain started to connect the relief from my emotional pain with the act of cutting, and so, it became easier every time.

Try holding this away from your spouse – it ain’t gonna happen. Especially when your spouse is a therapist. My husband knew I hid a lot of my childhood, as well as the ache of my father’s abandonment at 18 and a whole lotta family dysfunction. Maybe it all added up and became too much to bear. My husband did everything he could to prevent my self harming. He hid knives and sharp objects – I tear up as I write it. I was stubborn and didn’t think I needed help.

My body has wounds on my arms and legs, but there were wounds that went so much deeper than anything that bled – than anything you could see. And I needed help.

One morning, with a crick in my neck after how much I had stuffed under my pillow, I agreed to get help. It took everything in me to accept it because accepting it meant I had to face really scary things.

And it was the bravest thing I could’ve done.

I started medication and saw a counselor for a while and today, I’m better for it. And then, as my life would have it, I was diagnosed with a very rare, incurable disease in October that makes me painfully half-blind for months and feels like jellyfish live inside my body. It’s called Neuromyelitis optica – I have my good days, I have my bad days. It’s been easy to fall into depression, but by the grace of God, it’s not prevailed.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m winning, but maybe sometimes we have to fight battles more than once to win. I like to think of my depression as part of my story that had to happen in order for me to be where I’m at today.

I think people who’ve been depressed have a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion and a sincere kindness for others. Maybe we’d not know this deep empathy if we’d not lived through our depression.

If you struggle with depression, here’s a virtual hug and a gentle nudge to seek help if you haven’t. It’s OK. You’re not depression. You have a powerful story to tell. You have a past, a name, and your own quirky awesome characteristics that make you who you are. None of that goes away because you seek help. You’re still you. I’m still me.

You’re already brave.

Who knows, maybe you’ll better for it.