I was asked via Instagram to write something about overcoming a mental illness, and about ending stigma. Truth be told, I will probably have OCD, anxiety and depression for the rest of my life to some degree. Therapy helped a lot. Cognitive behavioral therapy (cbt) is amazing. It’s what taught me that thoughts and feelings can be, and should be two different things. It’s the reason I can now do many things I couldn’t before including touching pill bottles without scrubbing my hands, being around propane tanks and not thinking I will die, seeing ambulances go by without freaking out about it being a sign that me or someone I love will die. And yes, I do know how irrational that sounds. That’s why it’s an illness, not a quirky fun joke. I created my Instagram account to be able to let those “bad thoughts” out of my head in hopes that people who could relate would find it and we could connect. They would know they weren’t alone, I would know I wasn’t alone, and we could benefit from each other to beat ocd, depression, anxiety, you name it. That in itself helps end stigma.
As for what those of us who have mental health issues can do to end the stigma, I’d say be as honest as you can about things. You can still have privacy that way. If your depression makes you really tired it’s okay to say I have been feeling pretty run down lately, and divulge more if you see fit.
Be open with your doctor’s and your closest people. Suffering in silence only prolongs suffering. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable and do things anyway. What you tell them will not be the weirdest thing they’ve heard, I promise.
Allow yourself to have views and opinions that differ from other people’s. You’re human and humans have brains, brains come up with thoughts… that’s a good thing. Don’t feel the need to fit the part, you’re not auditioning for a play, you are living your life.
As for what everyone can do to end stigma whether you struggle with your mental health or not I’d say be open to hearing things that you don’t understand without passing judgement, ask (appropriate) questions to try to understand more. The person at work who doesn’t make eye contact much and seems quite reserved isn’t necessarily a freak, they might be suffering from an anxiety disorder or issues with confidence. We all need to be better people. Become educated on topics that we know very little about. Take a few minutes to read about what Bipolar Disorder actually is, or OCD, or Borderline Personality Disorder (bpd). If what you read surprises you think about what you’ve said or thought in the past about those various things. Mental illness isn’t a choice, but being a decent person is, and making a tiny effort can change someone’s whole day.