Why do we have this idea that everything has to be okay in our lives and if it's not, we better at least fake that we are okay? Isn't that many people's intentions on social media? People think: let me post all the highlights of my life, never letting others truly see and know what is going on behind closed doors or behind the mask of happiness that I wear...as if our goal in life is to trick others into thinking that we are okay...even when we aren't. How exhausting!
Earlier this morning I was thinking about counseling and mental health services and how different it is from medical services. People go to the doctor because they have to. They are in debilitating physical pain. They hurt something, broke something, have an infection, disease, etc. and NEED to get care. There is no shame or stereotyping in that. People get it.
With mental illness, however, it's different. The pain is in our minds. Often times, people can brush it off or hide it for quite some time. They can temporarily relieve the pain with addictions (drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, pornography, video games, etc). If they told people they were going to the doctor for broken arm, others would completely understand. However, if they said they were going to see a counselor or psychiatrist, this fear of judgement and lack of understanding arises...and rightfully so. I get really fired up emotionally when I hear people say that happiness is simply a choice. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge believer in the power of making positive and healthy choices daily...but for people with true mental illnesses, it is not always that simple or easy.
I wanted to make this blog short and simple, so I will try and wrap it up. Please please please, if you are struggling with depression, sadness, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, appetite change, sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, thoughts of self-harm or suicide, anxiety or more, please know that first of all, you are NOT alone. You are NOT crazy. Just like a physical illness that appears in various parts of the body, you may have an illness of the mind. People may judge you, stereotype you, or be inflexible in their thinking, but PLEASE don't let that stop you from getting the help you need! You cannot control how other people respond and their opinions are NOT worth more than your life.
If you know someone who has symptoms like these, please be open-minded and understand that mental illness is REAL...and NOT simply a choice. You may not completely understand, but that doesn't mean you cannot support them, encourage them, and simply be there for them.
Parents, please look for these symptoms in your children, and like I mentioned in a previous blog about bullying, encourage them to communicate how they are feeling and what they are thinking on a daily basis. I have had numerous parents call me and ask me what to do because their children hated the idea of counseling, but the parents knew their children needed help. I reminded them that getting them help may be one more reason for their children to be angry at them, but once they see how much help it can be, there's a good chance they will want to come back on their own. In my opinion, it's better to have a child angry at you then mentally hurting and suffering.
Remember: It's okay to not be okay. And it's okay to ask for help when you aren't!