It saddens me that we as individuals still live in a world dominated by judgement, labeling and stigma. I challenge those who question our actions of remaining silent, to ask themselves what their opinion would be if the neighbor boy started an outpatient program for his anxiety or depression. What their opinion would be if a coworker came in and shared that they knew someone who had to bring their child to an outpatient program because they found them with an empty bottle of pills. Would they say something along the lines of, ‘I always knew there was something off about that kid’, or, ‘I cannot even imagine having a crazy kid’ what about my favorite, and the one I believe has truly cemented this stigma towards mental health, ‘Gosh, where were their parents? Why were they not aware of what was going on?’. Why is it, that most parents, have no issue passing judgement on children trying to seek help, or on the parents of children seeking help? If you are at fault for this, please understand that I do not, and am not blaming you. This was how you were raised to believe, that mental health should be pushed under the rug, maybe even that you do not believe in an actual condition causing these symptoms. However, please understand that every time you tell your kid that you heard about the crazy neighbor boy who is ‘not right in the head’, that adds another brick in the wall separating wanting to talk to you, and fearing what you will think of them. Each time you say those words, it is a sharp stab in our stomach, like an angry witch stabbing their voodoo doll over, and over, and over. We learn that to have this disease, this condition, we are crazy, or ‘just sad’ or attention seeking. This is the reason we retreat to our room the second we place our dishes in the sink after dinner. Why we never wish to talk more than the common ‘how was your day’, ‘good how about you?’, ‘mine was good’ conversation. In our heads, we are looking into the eyes of someone who says they love us unconditionally, but has called us a crazy person, a screw up, all through their opinions on others. This is the reason why we do not speak up, this is why we are forced to sit up at night and ball our eyes out wishing we were anywhere but here. This is why, individuals like myself, were so hesitant on reaching out for help. I mentioned this briefly earlier, but the number one cause for the ‘stigma’ is parents blaming other parents for causing their child’s mental health. How do they have the audacity to criticize and analyze their parenting from the comfort of their home? Between two brick walls, and three miles down the road. I do not wish to spend much time on this, for I will address it in a later blog, but children are horrifically brutal to one another. The use of terms like ‘crazy’ and ‘mental’ are used in such a derogatory way, that it drastically leaves any individual struggling with mental illness, pushing these feelings further and further down. We need to break down this stigma. We need to further education at younger ages. Start educating kids on the idea of mental health starting in elementary school. However, the number one change that needs to be made, is that we need to reshape the family communication dynamic, we need to make the conversation of mental health a dinner table conversation.
Who am I? My intention is to be a regular blogger and figured I should semi introduce myself. Unfortunately, due to certain family situations, I cannot reveal my name at this time. However, I believe there is benefit in writing anonymously and it can further my mission to end the stigma. Because you do not know my name, I am both everyone, and I am no one. I may be your neighbor, who never is seen outside and often nicknamed Boo Radley throughout the neighborhood, who actually suffers greatly from social anxiety and has led to me isolating in my home due to my depression. I may be the lady in your office who keeps to myself and stares blankly while I work, leading you and a group of coworkers to consistently say I have a ‘resting b**ch face’ and wonder what my problem is and why I am not welcoming. Well that problem and that look on my face is pure terror as I am paralyzed due to an enormous fear of the future and me currently experiencing a panic attack. Or I might be your boss who you believe is acting like a jerk because I am ‘power hungry’ when in actuality, I am constantly angry because I wake up every morning in a beautiful home, with a beautiful wife, and plenty of money in my bank account, but all I think about is how badly I want to leave this life, and every night when my wife goes to bed, I take a razor to my skin because it is the only time I feel, feel anything at all, and have no idea why because I was never taught what mental health was. Or, just maybe, I am your child. Your child who ‘listens to music too loud’ and am ‘going through a rebel phase because of the movies I watch’. When, in reality, I simply have no idea who I am, feel so incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, and fall asleep every night with swollen eyes and wet pillows. That music is the only thing keeping me here, allowing me to drag every ounce of my body out of bed every morning only to expose myself to constant societal pressures throughout the entire day.
We never know what an individual is going through. At any moment, of any day, we must interact with individuals with the awareness that we have no clue what that person is going through, and it may be much deeper than what we think. I could be everyone, I could be no one. I am one of the 43.8 million adults who experience mental illness in a given year. I could be one of the 17.52 million adults who sought treatment for their mental health. Or, I could be one of the 26.28 million adults who were petrified of judgement and the stigma to seek help. Just remember, everyone has a story, and it is likely that every single day, you will interact with a man or a woman who experiences mental illness.
-Thoughts of Many; Voice of One