mental health, Mental Illness Awareness Month

Ending National Mental Illness Month

Today is the last day of May — as well as the last day of National Mental Illness Month. Throughout the month, I’ve written a grand total of seven posts that discuss my experience with anxiety, as well as the perception that mental health has. We have come a long way from the days of mental illness being perceived as something to be ashamed of. With that being said, there’s still so much to be done.

If you’re sitting here thinking hey, I want to do more to make a difference, there’s so much you can do. Unsure what you can do? Here’s a list to help get you started:

  • Become informed on mental health issues and educate others.
  • Volunteer for your local mental health agency/suicide line.
  • Donate money to a charity whose proceeds go to mental health aid.
  • Write letters to your congressperson about important issues in mental health care and how they will have an effect on patients. 

However, most importantly, I ask you to remove all stigmas you have about mental illness and just listen. Yesterday, I discussed the toxic ways mental health is perceived. Now, I want you all to examine how you interact with someone who has a mental illness. I want you to do whatever you can to ensure that you treat them with both respect and kindness. Because, like you, they are human too.

With that being said, just because the month is over, doesn’t mean the conversation has to be. Keep talking, keep learning, and keep educating. Why? Because with every person who strives to make a difference can be crucial to helping the cause become stronger.

mental health, Mental Illness Awareness Month

Why Mental Health Needs To Be Treated Like A Physical One

A couple of days ago, I saw this video that demonstrated what it would look like if we were to treat physical illnesses the way that we treat mental ones.

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For me, this video really brought home the message that both mental and physical illnesses have one word in common – illnesses. They are something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

My question is, why do we?

Clearly, we know it’s not okay to say to someone who has just hit their head to stop complaining because they are bringing you down. Instead, we ask them if they are okay. So, why do we think it’s okay to tell someone who is diagnosed as clinically depressed to just stop complaining? Or, better yet, why do we belittle them.

Newsflash, people. Mental health needs to have that same perception as physical. End of story.

Being told to suck it up is so last year. When someone has a diagnosed mental illness, it is almost the same, or even worse as a physical one. And, when you tell them that they are complaining too much, or bringing you down, it’s downright rude and disrespectful. They need to take care of themselves, and they are doing the best that they can to do that. Sometimes, people with depression struggle to get out of bed. Sometimes, people with anxiety panic to the point where all they dwell on are the negative. And, if you were their friend, you would do whatever you can to help them – not, disrespect them.

With an Italian upbringing, mental illness was perceived as just not being tough enough. Having anxiety, many of my family members often think that I am just complaining when I say that I am feeling anxious, or think that my therapy sessions are just a waste of money. Or, that I don’t need a therapist.

But, do I tell the person with a broken leg that they don’t need physical therapy? We don’t say shake it off, because you’re complaining too much? No, because that’s crazy. We shouldn’t be saying that going to a psychotherapist, therapist or psychologist is a waste of money, either. Like physical therapy, psychotherapy is trying to heal the mind to make them stronger. And, why would we try to knock down strength – physical or mental?

And, by these stigmas floating around in the world, it might be the very reason why someone is too afraid to get the help they need because they feel like they are complaining too much, or too ashamed or proud to admit that they have a problem. And, that is just tragic.

Mental illness and physical illness need to be on the same tier. Someone who complains anxiety or depression is not them craving attention. It doesn’t come from wanting to drown you down, which by the way is absurd. They come from living in that sea of depression daily. They come from living in a constant state of anxiety and they are not complaining. You running your mouth and saying those things to them is only adding fuel to the fire, and can easily make things worse for them.

Which is something that they didn’t need.

So, let’s not belittle those who suffer from a mental illness. Let’s not make them feel ashamed for getting the help that they need. Let’s applaud those who struggle, but are choosing to get the help they need? Let’s applaud each and every person who decides to fight whatever obstacle they face, instead of just allowing themselves to get swept up in the tide and drown.

Instead, let’s call them warriors, because they go to war with their minds every day, which sometimes can be a constant battle. Life with a mental illness isn’t easy, and therefore, they deserve to be treated with the same sympathy and respect that you did when you broke your leg, arm, or that any diabetic has.

Mental Illness Awareness Month

What I Wish Those Without Anxiety Knew About Anxiety

For those who are lucky to not have to experience mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or an eating disorder, I consider you to be lucky. There are so many things that you may not know – or even understand what it’s like to have to deal with the effects of one.

I have anxiety. Having anxiety means overthinking everything – from the way that you said hello to someone, to how you worded that text message, or why the guy that you like isn’t texting you back – the thoughts circling around your mind like an endless drain. Having anxiety means having panic attacks – often over something small or nothing at all. Having anxiety means living in a constant state of worry, even though you may have nothing to worry about. Having anxiety is often being scared over things that seem small to the naked eye, and not being able to do something because of that fear. And that is only giving you the Reader’s Digest version of what is truly like to deal with anxiety.

With that being said, there are so many things that someone who doesn’t have anxiety may not get. For example, if they see someone on the street having a panic attack because they are about to go on a date with someone and they are afraid of what may happen, they may think that they are crazy or over reacting.

I can assure you that they are not. I can simply say that it’s their anxiety. And, no they are not overacting. They are not doing it to get attention. They are not saying that so you can drop whatever it is you are doing to get your attention and affection. And yes, they are doing the best they can to control it, but sometimes their very best isn’t enough.

They are saying that because their brain is telling them that there is a danger of some sort. They are feeling that way because the fear of doing whatever has taken over their body like a parasite, and sucked everything else out of them. They are doing that because they cannot help it, and if they could, do you really think that living their life in that constant state of mind?

I don’t think so.

And the same thing applies to those who have other mental illnesses, although I myself can not speak to what it’s like to deal with those on a daily basis. I can tell you this, though: every day, someone with a mental illness is doing the best that they can to float through daily life. And, you should understand that, and remind them that they are awesome, and give them a hug.

Mental Illness Awareness Month

It’s Okay To Cry Sometimes

Big girls don’t cry.

Stop crying now, men don’t cry.

You’re acting like a baby, stop crying.

Crying is showing weakness.

These are only a few of the stereotypes that are associated with crying. However, I disagree with each and everyone.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: it’s okay to cry. Crying does not make you weak.

I, on the other hand, think that by being comfortable enough with yourself to allow yourself to express those emotions in a healthy way is the best thing ever.

I don’t know where this concept comes from. Maybe it’s something that is passed down from generation to generation – something that a father tells his son, who then tells his son. Maybe it’s society. For instance, many men in television sitcoms, such as Frank Barone from Everyone Loves Raymond or Tim Taylor from Home Improvement proclaim that “real” men don’t cry.

With that being said, I would like to challenge that notion with this. By bottling that emotion up like that, it leads to an emotional explosion where you finally release everything that you’ve held in for so long. It’s not healthy, plain and simple.

I also would like to argue that crying shows strength, as I mentioned earlier. There’s something about allowing yourself to release those emotions. It’s your way of release in the moment, a method of filtering out all of the emotions that are making you sad and release them into the world. And, it’s healthy.

I remember when my grandfather died, and I had to give a bible reading during his funeral mass. During halfway through the reading, I broke down and cried, apologizing to the audience (mostly family) afterwards. My cousins gave me grief about it, but I think in that moment, considering that my grandfather and I were close, that it was okay to release the sadness that I was feeling in that moment. Looking back on it, I think it’s what I needed to do, and needed to feel. And that’s perfectly alright.

And, there are health benefits to crying as well. According to Psychology Today, crying releases stress hormones that build up throughout the body. The article then goes on to state that crying “stimulates” endorphins – you know, the stuff that makes you feel good. After crying, the article states that our bodies enter a “calmer biological and emotional state.”

Can’t argue with science, now can you?

So, with that being said, no one on this earth should ever apologize for crying – whether it may be because you’re going through a breakup, dealing with a loved one’s death, or just because you’re stressed out. I myself, whenever I am stressed out, scared, upset or dealing with PMS. And I say that you should too, if you want, cry it out and express your damn emotions – and don’t let anyone take that away from you.

anxiety, mental health, Mental Illness Awareness Month, Relationships, Uncategorized

Not Tonight Dear, I Am Having A Panic Attack: Anxiety and Dating

As a person with anxiety, it is safe to say it has had an impact on my relationships. When I was in my previous relationship, it was when my anxiety was in full swing, and panic attacks were a regular occurrence. However, I was really lucky to have a boyfriend who was supportive and did whatever he could to help me with dealing with it.

While I am lucky to have minor anxiety now, it still exists. I am unsure how anxiety will play out in my next relationship. But, I learned enough about it over the years to give advice to couples that may have to deal with anxiety.

Note: While this post mainly talks about anxiety, these tips pertain to all mental illnesses, from eating disorders to depression.

Talk it Out

With all relationships, you need to communicate, as communication is key. When it comes to my anxiety, I pretty much am an open book and am completely honest with my partner, or a potential one. If not, then you are putting on a façade of someone you may not actually be. Since my anxiety is a part of me, I like to take the time to have a thoughtful conversation about it with my partner. In that conversation, we’ll discuss things such as what makes me anxious? What are my triggers? What is my role in this anxiety thing, and what can I do to help?

One thing that my former partner and I did was go to therapy together to have an open space to discuss anxiety. I believe that it was a helpful thing for us to do, because it induced productive and effective conversation, and is a worthwhile option for those who are willing. However, therapy is a private thing – meant only for the indexed individual. So, if you don’t want to have your partner sits in on a session, then that’s okay too.

Be Supportive

With that being said, always do what you can to show your support for them and their journey. This can be something as simple as hugging your partner while they hit a low, asking them about their therapy session, or just reminding them that you’re here for them.

While the ideal partner is always supportive, it is especially important for when your partner has a mental illness.

It’s Not One-Sided

Sometimes, sadly, a relationship can be consumed with anxiety. It can be overwhelming for anyone to deal with anxiety, especially the loved ones of that person – I am not going to lie. However, it is important to remember that your partner does care about you as well, and wants you to take the time that you need for yourself.

While it is up to you how you prioritize how you divide your time, it can be overwhelming when you constantly feel like you are on call for your partner. Newsflash, you are not a doctor. So, Be sure that you take care of yourself. Play your video games, go for that run, or do whatever it is you do for fun.
In addition to that, do not be afraid to be honest with your partner. If you feel overwhelmed, tell them. I definitely understand, and to be honest, I would want my boyfriend to tell me how he’s feeling.

Just Be There

Sometimes, all we need is a hug and someone to tell us that everything is going to be okay when the world feels like it’s crashing down on you. You may have to do this a lot sometimes, but trust me, it does not go unappreciated.

Be Understanding

You might not understand what a panic attack feels like, or the effect it has on the person going through one until you see your partner stare off into space while kissing you because they are scared and feel unsafe. This is especially true if you yourself have never dealt with anxiety. However, all you can do is just understand and be patient. And, if this does happen to you, kiss their forehead and remind them that it will truly be alright.

Remember They Are More Than Their Anxiety

I am much more than my anxiety. I am a writer, a photographer, a person, a bookworm, and so much more. Mental illness, especially the label, does not define the patient. Remember that they are much more than that, and they too are human. So, whatever you do, be sure to remember that there is more to them.

mental health, Mental Illness Awareness Month

Ending the Stigma Together

May is Mental Illness Awareness Month, and while it is great to have a whole month devoted to it, I think that every month should be. Anyways, I digress.

Mental illness has come a long way from being damning to being accepted. However, negative stigmas still exist. And, they need to not.

There are so many, myself included, that deal with the effects of a mental illness – whether it may be trauma, anxiety, bipolar disorder or depression. We struggle, and it’s much easier to throw in the towel instead of facing it. But, so many of us choose to be strong, and choose to say I’m broken, but I am not going to let it break me. And, with each passing day we get better. We repair the damage, bloom, and then we grow.

And, with all of us united as one, we too can end the stigma that comes with mental illness.

To all of those who are still struggling, please know that it is okay not to be okay. It is okay to say I need help and to accept it. It is okay to talk to a therapist, who will help you get you back on your feet again. It is okay to cry when you need to. It is also okay to talk about all of the things that are bothering you.

And, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Let’s use the month of May to educate ourselves and others about mental illness and what it is like to have one. Let’s change that stigma and talk about the issues that surround those who suffer with it day in and day out. Let us come together and bridge the gaps, so that no one is truly alone.

Note:

This will be the first post in a series throughout the month to spread awareness for mental illness, particularly anxiety. Stay tuned as we fight to #endthestigma