06.10.18 // Normalizing Mental Illness; A How To
With the tragic news of the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain bringing mental health awareness to the headlines, it seems like now more than ever people are finally starting to think - hey, maybe we should talk about this? Considering the US suicide rate has risen nearly 30 percent since 1999, it’s about time.
All of this week I’ve heard it - we have to talk about this. Talk about mental health. Mental health is important. And while all that talk is amazing, that’s all it is - talk. Because along with headlines of suicide and the need for more recognition of mental health there is still a stigma that calling sick to work because of your anxiety isn’t a valid excuse. There’s still fear of people finding out you had the courage to confront your issues and see a therapist. There’s still a fear of telling your friends that you can’t actually come out tonight because no, I’m not physically sick, but I’m having an awful day and need to take a self-care night. Stigma exists (surprise!)
So the question now isn’t if we need to talk about mental health or not, but it’s how to talk about it so that things can actually change. How to de-stigmatize this, excuse my french, mother fucker. Here are just a couple ways to go about that.
If you feel ashamed of asking for help, ask yourself if you would feel that embarrassed for asking for help for a physical illness.
Yes? Do it anyway and know that your mental health is equally as important as your physical health
No? Rock on, you seem like a cool person.
If you judge someone or call them a wimp because they are facing battles in their head that you can’t even understand simple solution? Don’t. Just. Don’t.
You have no idea what is going on inside someone's head, there is always more to their story then what they tell you.
Don’t be scared to speak up when you’re having a bad day.
We say that we need to talk about mental illness, and yet we still pretend to be perfect 24/7. It would be really weird if everyone was always happy all the time, it’s okay to say that you’re not okay.
Spoiler alert, usually when you’re honest with someone about how you’re feeling, they don’t feel the need to fake how fucking amazing their life is, you can establish a more genuine connection, high-five and relish in how amazing and honest you both are.
There is no such thing as being “not sick enough” to get help, validate how you are feeling by accepting that you deserve to take a day off, take some time for self-care etc.
This one kept (and still keeps me) pretty stuck. Whenever I was having a bad day, or when I started to recognize my anxiety/OCD, I would try to downplay it because I started the comparison game. “People have it way worse, I need to just suck it up,” was my lovely excuse. People will always have it worse, people will always have it better, and your pain is still valid.
Imagine you had the flu but refused to stay home because you used the excuse, “well someone’s dying, so I’m fine.” Ridiculous? Absolutely.
Don’t lie about therapist’s appointments and say that you’re going to a “real doctors” appointment.
I used to lie to my friends and say I was going to the dentist. And I have good but not great teeth so one; not even a good lie, and two, I love my girl Margaret and don’t care if people know.
Surprise, everyone needs a therapist. They are just reserved for the “crazy” people, and you aren’t weird by going to someone who can help you navigate life.
If you had to take time off from school/work/anything else to get help for your mental illness, don’t lie about it.
I’ve been to rehab twice for my anorexia, and I used to hide it. I brushed it off when people asked me what I did on my year off, or told them I just worked a lot (yet made no money, again, not the best lier here). It’s a badass thing to realize you need to take time to heal, and if you had a physical sickness there would be no thought that you wouldn’t tell someone.
If they’re uncomfortable about it, that is their issue. It’s kind of fun to watch people get uncomfortable when you drop the, back in rehab story into the conversation. The more people talk about it, the more normal it will be. We have the power to change the conversation, but the only way that’s going to happen is to actually have it.
Finally, I would like to point out that suicides are always happening, and it's sad to think that we have to wait for it to be in the headlines for this conversation to get going. Every life matters and we need to talk, now.
To find a crisis line in your area you can check out - http://www.yourlifecounts.org/need-help/crisis-lines
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255