I have panic and anxiety disorder. I’m quite literally scared of just about everything. The dentist, driving on the highway, tight spaces, wide open spaces, heights, clowns. Too many things to list. Sometimes, I’m scared of nothing. Faceless, nameless vague ideas. Possibilities. Potential outcomes. Right now, as I write this, my mind is running through dozens of different scenarios, playing out hundreds of potential outcomes.
I’m worrying about my car. It’s acting up again and I’m not sure I can afford to fix it. I’m worrying about my son. He has a cold. What if it’s the flu? He’s never had the flu. I’m worried about the infected nerve in my tooth going to my heart and killing me as I wait for the ONE oral surgeon in my area who takes my insurance to have an opening. I was SO worried about that the other day that my blood pressure shot up to astronomical levels. Self-fulfilling prophecies are a big part of anxiety disorder. I’m worrying about whether or not you like me. I’m always worrying about that, even though I tell everyone I’m too punk rock to care if anyone likes me.
I’m afraid all the time. I’m afraid to say “I have a mental illness” because anyone without a mental illness associates those words with things like serial killers and creepy people who hide in shacks building explosives. Yet according to NIMH, about 18.1% of US adults have a mental illness. That’s nearly 1 in five people, and that’s only the people that we know about. So many people hide their feelings because of the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Suicide remains the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming an estimated 43,000 lives a year. Put into perspective, homicide ranks #17. Over 830,000 people are seen in emergency rooms for self-inflicted injuries, according to the CDC. When I was 14, I was one of them. Like many others with anxiety disorder, I also deal with bouts of depression. I had that under control for a long time, but ever since a very traumatic incident a few years ago, I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression again as a side effect of PTSD.
It stinks to be afraid of so many things. I wish I wasn’t. But I’m not ashamed of my fear. I’m not ashamed of the fact that sometimes I get really, really sad. I didn’t ask for my brain chemicals to be screwy. Neither did the other 18.1% of US adults dealing with mental illness. Isn’t it time we change the stigma surrounding it and instead offer a bit of hope to those suffering in silence?
BringChange2Mind and #MindOurFuture
BringChange2Mind (BC2M), the national organization co-founded by Glenn Close that works to combat stereotypes around Mental Health, launched a special campaign called #MindOurFuture, asking people to share their stories about helping or reaching out for help during a mental health struggle.
Getting involved is easy. Share your story about lending a helping hand or reaching out for help during a mental health struggle by recording a video and uploading it to YouTube, tagging it with #MindOurFuture.
BC2M will check out all the videos, then select a handful to feature in their next professionally produced, nationally distributed PSA. You have until February 29th to upload your video.
If you’re not comfortable sharing a video (they’re a challenge for me), there are so many others ways that you can help. Check out the BC2M Get Involved page and take the pledge. It’s really just a pledge to be more mindful of those with mental illness and to give yourself a break. Most of it is about common human decency. Which brings me to my next point.
You don’t have to make videos or do anything elaborate to change the stigma surrounding mental illness. You just have to be a good person. Be patient when your friend tells you that she can’t come to your party because she’s too afraid to drive on the highway. Don’t tell her she’s being stupid or silly, or that she’s over-reacting when she says she’s really scared of something you do everyday without even thinking about it. To you, it’s routine. To her, it’s a nightmare.
Listen. Really listen. Don’t judge. Care. That’s all you really have to do.
Just care enough to be part of the change.
There’s no shame in it, and admitting it is the first step to getting better!
I think this is wonderful–I am a believer in this! Don’t judge when you haven’t been in someone else’s shoes!
You never know what someone is going through, so no one should ever judge.
I don’t suffer from any type of anxiety but I sure understand how it feels to deal with an illness. It’s never easy and there will always be people who will question you for having it. It’s good to have a support, be it people or medication. We can’t hinder ourselves from living the best life we can live.
This is a great message. Mental illness is a serious disease and it should be treated as such. People should feel comfortable talking about it!
I will have to take this pledge. There is a long history of mental illness and suicide in my family, and it is so important to raise awareness and remove the stigma of mental health.
Such a powerful post, Mental disease was a serious situation, It should feel comfortable to talk
This is really a serious thing, It should be comfortable to talk about mental disease
There;s really no shame in it. Thanks for this powerful post.
I always believe that everybody has something going on and that we should never judge.
When I have something new going on, I can’t sleep and feel very anxious all th time. It is really hard when you can talk about it.
It’s time for the stigma to be gone. Nobody should be ashamed of a medical problem. Thanks for speaking up about this.
Mental illness can branch out in a variety of areas. I just saw it this morning on the news with hoarding. Mental illness is the hard one because you often don’t see what people are really going through.
I agree with Heather. You don’t always know what someone is going through on the outside, which can make it hard to help. I’m glad the stigma is being reduced, let’s hope it’s a thing of the past before we know it.
very interesting ,the metal illness is really bad–i have seen this with my ex-wife,and its hard to get over some times….
It is important to recognize and address the problems in yourself or in others so that you can live a better life. Mental Illness is hard for all aspects.
What a wonderful reminder! Let’s all try to listen better.
This is good to know! Thank you for putting this out there!