I’ve always been open about my struggles with anxiety. It’s something that has been a major part of who I am for as long as I can remember. While I suspect that the depression has also been with me since childhood, it’s not something that I ever talked about until it was formally diagnosed in 2012, because I didn’t know I was depressed.
The first lie that depression tells you is that you don’t have depression.
I’m not sure why I was always ok with sharing my battles with anxiety- it didn’t start out as a way to reduce the social stigma. Perhaps I’m an oversharer… I have been told that I don’t have to be “quite so honest” before…
These days, I share my diagnoses and experiences:
- to help reduce stigma associated with mental health diagnoses
- because I believe that the people in my life need to know why I make some of the decisions I do
- because I hope that by sharing my struggles, I might be able to help someone else who is also struggling
A number of weeks ago, a friend confided in me that her daughter has significant anxiety, and that she worries about her. I admitted that I have anxiety, and at the end of our discussion, she told me that she was thankful that I shared my experiences with her, because it gave her some reassurance that her daughter would be able to have a good life, with a good marriage and a successful career.
That conversation was the first time that anyone has ever told me that I have helped them just by being honest and open. This week I received another comment that was very similar. By having positive conversations about mental health, we can empower people to ask for help, rather than shaming them. We can save lives. We can improve lives.
To close, remember, having a mental illness does not mean that you are less capable than others. It does not mean that you won’t have a good life, a happy marriage, a successful career. It might mean that you have to work harder to keep yourself healthy, perhaps through counselling, support groups, medication, etc., but you can do it. Some days will be easier than others, but you’re still here. You’re still fighting. And I’m fighting with you. Battle on, my friends.