How I Talk About Mental Illness

“Yeah…what did you get up to last night?”

“Oh, nothing too crazy. Cleaned up the house a bit, did some laundry, popped a pill, had my depression nap…you know, the usual shit.”

The last parts of my statement usually get a chuckle or a weird look, depending on who’s on the receiving end. It’s the transparency, the openness, the vulnerability of the statement that either puts people off or piques their interest. The words make some people uncomfortable, and others find it refreshing. Some people shy away from the topic, while others embrace it.

I never used to talk about my mental illness. Hell, I wasn’t even sure what I was feeling was even “real”. I was afraid, ashamed, and confused that I was going through something I didn’t understand. I’m not a big talker, but it wasn’t often that I had trouble putting anything into words. However, on my worst days, I could barely string enough words together to describe how I was feeling. The worst experiences, though, weren’t always what was going on inside of me…but what was going on when I tried to reach out.

Let’s not sugarcoat anything. Talking about mental illness is exhausting. It’s extremely difficult, and it’s even harder when the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand or suggests various ways to cope that just don’t make sense (FYI: “Cheer up”, “Suck it up”, “Get over it”, and “Have you tried praying about it?” are usually bad things to say). So often as people, we listen to reply instead of listening to understand. Sometimes, the person reaching out doesn’t even want to hear your “solutions” or your opinions, they just want you to hear them out. Your job is to make it easy for them to talk to you, not force them away.

I think we all need to do a better job of providing an outlet for other people in our lives, especially loved ones. So often, people struggle with various ailments for so long without reaching out and getting help simply because the few times they’ve tried, they were met with resistance or negativity.

So, how exactly do I talk about mental illness? The answer is “In any way I can.” I may post to this blog, share a video or status on Facebook, talk to someone face-to-face, or simply send a “How are you doing emotionally?” text to a friend. The more I talk about it and bring it up, the more I hope others will. It is my dream that one day there will be no stigma attached to mental illness, and that everyone is able to talk about these topics as easily as others.

That being said, the next time you ask someone “How are you?”, I implore you to really mean it. I’ve made it a mission to make talking about depression, anxiety, and other personal struggles the norm, so I make no apologies for being open and honest about my mental illness. If you have any questions or comments, or just want to talk, feel free to reach out. I’m here for you.

 

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