I was quiet for so long, but that wasn’t helping anyone, especially me.
I think it is very important for people to talk more openly about their mental health issues. Because the more we normalize it the more we reduce the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds it. Continuing to keep it a secret and feeling embarrassed or shameful about it only helps the stigma stick around. And guess what, there is nothing embarrassing or shameful about having an illness. Any illness.
However, I do understand that some people suffer in silence because they aren’t mentally prepared to “come out” about their struggles, or they know how a certain person will react. That is why the people who can speak up, should. We can be a voice for those that can’t speak up yet, and hopefully be the inspiration for them to eventually speak up.
For me, I had such a hard time being open about it. I feared judgement from my family and friends. I still haven’t exactly told everyone yet, but it’s not something I am going out of my way to hide either. Just like a person with diabetes doesn’t need to announce their illness to everyone, but they have no problem saying they have it if the topic comes up.
I make a point of speaking very casually about it now. I used to be a little hushed when I brought it up, my tone of voice would change, and you could tell I was feeling a little worried bringing it up. I was still a little embarrassed by it. Talking about it like it’s no big deal, is what will help others realize its no big deal. There’s no need to change how you treat me (unless I bring something up with you specifically) or interact with me. You can still joke around with me, but just have an understanding that my mind works differently.
To those that have someone in their life with a mental illness, if they are open about it with you, go ahead and ask them questions about it. Don’t get too personal of course, but if I bring up taking my meds, you can ask me a little about them, how they are working for me, if I had any weird side effects, whatever. Just don’t ask why I need to take them, and offer “natural” ways to treat depression. (Seriously!) If someone doesn’t want to answer, respect that of course.
Basically, the more normal we all make talking about mental illness, the more the stigma will go away. And a little bit of humour can go a long way too!