Recently, I was asked about my thoughts on therapy, and mental illness in general. I’m a psychology major, I work at a group home, and I’ve personally had a few different diagnosis slapped on a file with my name.
Depending on the day or person, I might have a decent amount to say about it all.
While having a brief conversation about my own personal experiences, someone’s reaction amounted to: “That happened to you so long ago. You shouldn’t even be talking about it anymore.”
The irony is, the biggest reason I feel the need to talk about experiences years after is because of responses just like that one.
Remarks like this one reek of stigma; it’s what kept my disorder in the dark initially.
Stigma may be a sad reality for longer than I would like, but my biggest rebellion against the ridiculousness of it all is to keep my voice heard. Anyone who has stories of their own mental health issues, as well as a loved one’s mental health issues, has a voice.
Sharing each story is both for your benefit and the people around you.
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Without a doubt, talking about mental illness can be terrifying at first.
There are a million ways to do it, but because it’s your experience, you get ownership of it. With ownership, you get the right to express everything that comes with that trial, along with the choice of who gets to hear it.
As I was first liberating myself from depression and disordered eating, my choice was to stand before classrooms and talk about all kinds of struggles I was working through. I remember being so nervous my hands shook the notecards I prepared. I also remember feeling extremely empowered by speaking out against things that used to be my chains.
Not everyone is going to gain freedom from speaking in front of groups of people.
However, not everyone needs to. Your version of speaking up can even be to finally talk opening with a close friend who never understood before. Who knows, your friend could be going through some of the same things, or might, years down the road.
By talking through your mental illness you have the wonderful opportunity to claim mental illness as a part of your narrative, and not your identity.
You also have the opportunity to be an example to people currently suffering. If we all talked about our struggles more, the stigma would have no option but to loosen its grip. I wish I had more people bringing awareness to everything mental illness is before I was at my rock bottom.
From what I’ve seen, though, the best way to get people to talk more openly is to open up yourself and watch for the ripple effect. I’ve had around 5 years of telling tales of my own mental illness by now. The more I keep an open dialogue, the surer I am it makes the shame shed off.
My strongest rebellion to the stigma is bringing mental illness into the light.
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