The Stigma

I couldn’t be with people and I didn’t want to be alone. Suddenly my perspective whooshed and I was far out in space, watching the world. I could see millions and millions of people, all slotted into their lives; then I could see me—I’d lost my place in the universe. It had closed up and there was nowhere for me to be. I was more lost than I had known it was possible for any human being to be.
— Marian Keyes, Anybody Out There?

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.

So why is this so hard to talk about? Why is help so hard to find? Why do we have this fear of admitting that we just aren’t okay?

Are we stronger people if we just bottle it all up inside? I’m sure some believe that. If we ignore it, it’s not really there right?

The hardest part is admitting it to yourself first. You first have to stop telling yourself you’re just sad, it’s no big deal. I couldn’t admit it. For fifteen years I told myself there was nothing wrong with myself, I just needed to get over it.

I wasn’t okay and there was no just getting over it. This isn’t a war I can win alone and it took me a lot longer to realize that then it should have.

I remember the first time I was admitted to a mental health unit. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and scared. You hear the horror stories and there is no one that you know there to help you. I felt alone all over again. The police dropped me off and told me to take care of myself.

The intake was started and is now just a blur to me. It wasn’t something I wanted to remember, so I don’t. It was late and everyone else was asleep. Luckily I got a room to myself and laid there wondering what happens next.

All night long I felt shame for where I was. I hated myself even more for admitting that I was sick.

Could you imagine? Imagine walking down the sidewalk and passing someone trying to walk with a broken leg. Imagine them stumbling over and when you try to help them up they say “no, I’m fine.” For some reason they feel like they can’t ask for help. Society has made it taboo so they just continue to limp down that sidewalk with a broken leg like nothing is wrong. They continue to try not to cry out in pain because they feel shame.

Why do we continue this for mental health?