Mental Illness – THAT Label

When I was suffering in my disease I didn’t tell anyone what as going on with me. I carried a lot of fear and shame for how I was living my life and thought that if I did tell someone the thoughts that ran through my head, and the things I was doing daily just to get by, that I would be locked up and labeled crazy. I had watched others in my life suffer with mental illness, and I was determined not to be like them, but determination wasn’t going to change the facts, I was in the throes of mental illness and I was loosing the battle.

I was fortunate that someone came into my life who had been where I was, someone who didn’t judge me or preach to me, he simply shared his story with me and lead by example. It took several months for that story to really resonate with me, but thankfully it did, and I recognized myself in that story and knew that that person was safe to reach out to and share my struggle with. It was that phone call that saved my life and started me on the path I live today, I have never looked back.

Why are we so afraid of the term mental illness? It wasn’t something I particularly liked as I set out on my path of recovery, but it put things in perspective for me. I had an illness. It wasn’t a lack of willpower or not being good enough that had caused me to get to such a bottom in my life that it brought me to my knees, and, nearly cost me my life, I was sick.

Mental illness covers a wide range of conditions that affect our mood, thinking or behavior. Some symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or down

  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate

  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt

  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows

  • Withdrawal from friends and activities

  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping

  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations

  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress

  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people

  • Alcohol or drug abuse

  • Major changes in eating habits

  • Sex drive changes

  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence

  • Suicidal thinking

I experienced all of these before reaching out for help. Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headache, or other unexplained aches and pains. It’s cunning, baffling and powerful, and depending on what exactly you may be experiencing, it may also tell you you don’t have it. Mine certainly did, and on some days, still can.

But here’s what I’ve learned on this path of over 13 years. It can get better, and does if you seek help, and, are willing to be honest with yourself and others about what you are struggling with, if you are willing to do the work to get better, and can stop beating yourself up for something that is not your fault. We don’t criticize someone for being diagnosed with cancer, so why do we think we will be criticized for a mental health diagnoses? And if someone does criticize, it’s from their own fear or ignorance. There is nothing to be ashamed of. 43.8 million adults in the US deal with symptoms of mental illness everyday, and, with a diagnoses and proper self-care, many, like myself, lead happy and productive lives.

We need to change our perception of what mental illness means, and, what it does not mean. It does not make us weak, it does not make us less than, it does not make us losers, unable to cope, lazy, not equipped for life, it means we have certain obstacles we have to navigate around and we have to make sure we are doing what we need each day to keep ourselves in good health, mentally, physically and spiritually, that is all.

For those who dislike the label, labels do not define us, it is only a way to distinguish what is going on and what needs to be dealt with. For me, even though I didn’t like that label to start, it made what I was experiencing make sense, once I accepted that label I was able to do my homework and seek out the right kind of help I needed to get better, for me, shying away from that label would have only prolonged my suffering, and, in the end, may have kept me from getting well and which would have put my life in danger, the key to my getting well was being rigorously honest with myself and that meant I needed to accept the truth so that I could get better. I was told at the beginning of my journey that when I had the facts I was safe, even if they weren’t what I had wanted to hear, when I new what they were I could make sound decisions for my own well-being. The fact was, and is, I suffer from mental illness, except, I don’t suffer anymore, I thrive with it, overcome it and allow it to now connect me with others who may be struggling with it. Something that I once thought of as a curse is now the reason I started this blog, the reason it’s important to me to give back, to share my story because within that story and within my disease is hope, something I didn’t have when I was in denial about my mental illness.

No one wants to be different, no one wants to think of themselves as not capable, but suffering in silence is not the answer, not when there is an abundance of help out there, much of it free, to help you discover your best you, and to help you realize that a mental illness diagnoses is not anything to be ashamed about. May is mental health awareness month, a good time to look into what mental illness is and what it may mean to you, a great time to get honest and get some education around what might be troubling you or someone you love. SLAY on!

SLAY OF THE DAY: Do you have an issue with the term mental illness? If yes, why? Have you been diagnosed with a mental illness? Do you think you have symptoms of mental illness? What are they? Where can you go to seek help or guidance? Do you talk about your symptoms with others? If yes, who? If not, why not? Do you stand in your own way of getting help because of your how prejudice of what you think mental illness is or means? What if you looked into it anyway, let go of your fears or ideas of what you think it means and just look into the facts? Mental illness does not make you a bad person, 1 and 5 adults has some form of mental illness, you are not alone and you are not at fault, but you hold the key to finding relief and finding a way of life that allows you to be your best self.

S – self L – love A – appreciate Y – you

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