Mental illness has a crazy stigma associated with it. People don’t like talking about it, which makes it difficult to get help.
I’ve struggled with mental illness for a long time. I wasn’t willing to talk about it, though, because we couldn’t find a solution until just a few months ago.
I had mood swings, anger problems, and depression, but I wasn’t ready to accept that it was a mental illness. I simply blamed all of these problems on everyone else.
My parents caused me to have bad mood swings, my anger problems were caused by my cheerleading team, and I was depressed because my boyfriend had broken up with me.
I was projecting all of my problems on my surroundings and wasn’t taking any responsibility for it. Not that I am responsible for my mental illness, but I refused to accept the fact that these may, in fact, be caused internally rather than internally.
It wasn’t until recently that I started to take a more internal approach to it and tried to figure out what was causing all of my imbalances. I researched mental illnesses online and talked to friends and family about it. Thanks to some much-needed encouragement from Sean, I finally talked to my doctor about it, too.
I told him I knew something was wrong, and I thought it was anxiety. He talked to me about different symptoms I was experiencing. I explained that my heart would beat rapidly (and painfully) any time I did anything remotely stressful, and my hands would shake so much I couldn’t even use them. I had a really short temper and if I was interrupted, I would lash out at the closest person. Typically, Sean. (See why he was so insistent on me talking to my doctor about it?)
My doctor had me take a short test where I rated my experience with anxiety symptoms on a scale of 0-3. A 0 means you never experience it, while a 3 means the symptom is debilitating. After you finish, you total up your ratings and it gives you an idea of how severe your anxiety is. My score was high above the benchmark for “extreme anxiety.” So I was prescribed some anti-anxiety/anti-depression medication.
That’s right. I take medication for my mental illness.
While the stigma against mental illness is really bad, it’s even worse against taking medications for a mental illness. As the always-wonderful Jennifer Lawrence pointed out, “People have diabetes or asthma and they have to take medication for it. But as soon as you have to take medication for your mind, there’s this instant stigma.” It’s simply not fair.
I’ve decided to try to fight this stigma in my own life by being open about my anxiety. And you know what? I haven’t gotten a negative reaction yet. Just because I have a mental illness doesn’t mean I’m any less of a person.
As soon as I started telling people about my mental illness and about the help I’m seeking for it, people have started telling me about their own struggles with mental illness. Many haven’t gotten help for it, but they want to know how my journey is helping me. If it works for me, they might try it for themselves.
It’s been a rough journey so far. When I started taking my medication, the first week was full of constant tiredness, nausea, and dry mouth. But once my body got used to it, I felt loads better.
I’ve gained loads of weight since starting my anti-anxiety meds. My doctor warned me that weight gain is a side effect of my medication, so I was expecting it. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but I keep reminding myself what my anxiety and panic attacks were like before those meds. I’d rather weigh more and have no anxiety than be skinny and struggle with panic attacks.
A few weeks after my first anxiety test, I went back to my doctor and took the same test. I scored well within the “little to no anxiety” category. I still have bad days, but now the good days far outnumber them.
I just know that talking about my mental illness has helped me come to terms with it. And possibly helping others in the process? That’s a bonus.