A painting of blue flowers made out of the Northern Lights.

Mental Illnesses

Today, I would like to talk about something that is very close to myself and many people. It is something that has touched the lives of almost every person on this earth in some shape or form, and something that I feel is incredibly important to discuss. I would like to talk about mental illness. I don’t have any particular goal in writing this, but I just want to contribute to the growing spread of awareness of mental illness and other disorders. I think that there is still a strong stigma around discussing it among many people, and I wish that stigma didn’t exist, because if we could all just talk about it openly and understand it, then perhaps the world could become a much happier place for everyone to share.

The way I see it, after having dealt with depression myself, and having many friends and loved ones that I’m incredibly close with who are, and have been affected by, various mental illnesses, I have come to believe that mental illness, is well an illness, and it’s something that needs to be treated. I don’t want to sugarcoat it right off the bat and make it seem like it’s just a phase, or a state of mind. It is something that a doctor typically needs to treat. Sometimes it can be daunting to learn that you or someone you love is suffering from a mental illness, but trust me, being open about it, discussing it, and getting the right care is one of the best things that you can do.

The biggest issue I see with today is that many people feel like they can’t get help. They feel ashamed of their mental illness, or perhaps scared to reveal that they are suffering from depression, anxiety, or something else. There is this huge underlying taboo in our society that mental illness is this dark hidden secret, and honestly, it shouldn’t be that way. People shouldn’t have to feel alone, like they have to fight the battle themselves, because no one should ever have to. It is okay to talk to people. It is okay to rely on others. Yes, people ought to learn how to rely on themselves and stand on there own, but on the flip side of that it is okay to take someone’s shoulder and just cry.

We humans are social creatures, and that means we need the support and care of others. I think something that has happened in our society today, is that our social aspect has begun to dwindle. Don’t quote me on this, but I keep hearing that people today are more lonely than they were fifty years, one hundred years, and even two hundred years ago. It’s ironic to think that, considering we have technology and ways to communicate in an instant, but I think that it has actually negatively affected our ability to feel interaction. I can tell you first hand that having a cell phone and the ability to communicate at any instant did not help the slightest when I was suffering from bad depression. In fact, the cell phone actually seemed to make it worse sometimes. I would have short cold conversations with people whom I couldn’t even see, and then like a spark, they would be gone in an instant, and I would be sitting alone, in a dark room, left to my own thoughts. That’s not good.

I think we as a world need to gather together to try and support one another. We need to be open to communication, we need to learn that it is okay to rely on others, that we don’t have to fight battles alone, and that we can get help, that there are places for help, and that those places for help are sometimes closer than we think. For those not suffering from mental illness, but who have people they are close to that are, I think it is incredibly important to learn as much as you can and be as understanding as you can towards that individual. But trust me, it is not something to feel sorry for. Do Not Feel Sorry for someone who is depressed. We don’t want that, and we don’t need that. We understand what we have to deal with, and we don’t want people to feel sorry for us, but, we want people to understand us. I think that understanding and support is the best thing that a depressed person can have, and that is something that can seem so so so hard to find in today’s world.

The most important thing is to be supportive. Those who have people in their lives suffering from mental illness try to remember, just be supportive, but don’t be sorry, just be supportive. I know that sounds counter intuitive, but trust me, it is the best thing you can do. And, those who are suffering from mental illness themselves, just remember, you don’t have to fight alone. Please, please, please, don’t feel like you have to fight it alone, because you don’t have to. There are people who care about you, and places you can go. It doesn’t make you weak to seek help from other people and it isn’t a loss, in fact, I see the act of seeking help from others as an act of strength, one that is incredibly admirable. Just know that there are places where you can find support, and the right kind of support at that, to help you become healthy again.

A painting of blue flowers made out of the Northern Lights.
Northern Lights Flowers, by Sam Perin

Moving on, I would like to discuss some of my own personal battles with mental illness. I worry that this may be revealing too much to the internet, but I’m discussing this because I feel like it is something that needs to be said. I want to help destroy the wall that surrounds the mention of depression, anxiety, and other ailments, and if my personal experiences can help do that by sacrificing my own privacy, then so be it, I would gladly tell them to help others in need.

Depression

I’ve had a long time dealing with depression and anxiety throughout most of my life. I’ve dealt with it both on my own without any medical attention, and with the support of a therapist. It is not something fun to have. My therapist never clinically diagnosed it, but it is something that just comes and goes. My depression isn’t as severe as other people’s can be, but it is still there nonetheless. Depression is like a looming cloud. It’s like something dark is hanging over you that you can’t shake. I remember when I suffered from it at its peak, I felt like I was walking around in a shadow every day. I felt like the world was dark and bleak, that everything was gray, and that there was no hope. Even if I didn’t want to feel that way, I still felt that way. I knew that it wasn’t good to think and feel that way for so long, but I couldn’t help it. It eats at your mind in a way, gnawing at it little by little. It’s like this terrible dark monster lives in your shadow, and every time you turn around it shows its hideous face. It’s like living in a constant storm of sadness and hopelessness. It is something truly unnerving to say the least, and something that no one should have to suffer through without support.

Please remember that my own experience with depression, is well, just that, my own experience. Everyone experiences it differently and to different degrees, and various different types of treatments are sometimes necessary. While I have always been able to pull myself up and out of my depression without any medication, many people need to have medication prescribed in order to put the chemicals in their brain back in balance. A lot of people have the idea that depression is just a mental state, that it is just something that you can magically fix, but it isn’t. It is not something that you can magically fix by willing it away. For some people, medication and real therapy is necessary in order to really get to the root cause of the depression. If it is something that has been caused by an event or has a trigger, then it may not require medication, but still involves very careful changes in one’s view on the world. However, sometimes it is in fact caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and that is when medication is most definitely needed.

Anxiety

Moving on, I have also suffered from various forms of anxiety throughout my life, and I’d like to discuss some of those experiences. While everyone on this planet has probably experienced anxiety in some form or another, it may be hard to really understand what true anxiety is like unless you experience it for yourself. Someone who suffers from true anxiety will feel like everything in the world is a ticking time bomb. They’ll be constantly worried, constantly on edge. It may come and go in phases, but it will usually always be in the back of their mind. It is like a clock ticking back and forth, unending, and always present. It starts to drive you mad. The constant worry, the constant concern over everything, or maybe just one thing. It is something that can force its way up into your personal life, making you take actions that you typically would not do. It is like your heart won’t stop racing, your mind won’t stop worrying, and your arms won’t stop shaking. It is scary. It feels uncontrollable. It feels like the world is closing in. It feels like you are alone.  It is not a good place to be in.

On the bright side, like many other mental illnesses, anxiety is also very treatable, and if someone who suffers from it seeks out the support they need, then they can surely make a stellar recovery. The important thing, and I keep saying this, is just to remember that you are not alone. Never feel like you have to fight alone, because fighting alone is something that no one should ever have to do. Seek the help that you need, and don’t let our society’s taboos and normalities stop you from seeking that help.

Mental Illness is something that is very very close to my heart. It is something that I have personally lived and dealt with, and it is something that many people whom I love have been affected by. It comes in so many different shapes and forms that it can feel daunting. Honestly, I got a bit teary writing this article, just remembering back to all of the people whom I’ve encountered throughout my life that suffered. Many of them are doing a lot better now, and that is something that I am incredibly grateful for, but it is still so important to remember what mental illness is, how it affects people, and how someone can get help. If you or loved one is suffering from any sort of mental illness, just please remember, that you are not alone. Always remember that. You are not alone.

Thank you.

 

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(I am not sponsored or endorsed by any of these places. I put these links here because I hope that they can help anyone who doesn’t know where to go. I think that they are good starts.)

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