The Face of Mental Illness

 

It’s me. It’s you. It’s your neighbor. Your mother, your brother, your best friend. It can be any of us and all of us.

I sit here today feeling somehow less of a person because of my challenges. Fighting against the seeming dark forces of depression, fatigue and a headache of unknown origin.  I feel somehow less valuable (at the moment) to the world, although I have so much to contribute. It’s part of the lie, the lie that we are told if we are labeled with a mental health issue or illness, the lie that we are less.

Not all days do I feel like this, if I did, I wouldn’t be smiling happily in the picture above. Most days I want to work for a greater good, help others, and create change. I want to let others know about the hope that I feel most of the time now. I want to educate, inspire, and help eradicate the stigma the seeps into all of our lives.

On Twitter this afternoon, an article was tweeted that reminds me of a vision I have for myself and I hope to achieve. This article speaks of  a woman who is creating change in the world by speaking to students about the realities of suicide and she speaks from her own experience, having lost her daughter to suicide just a few years ago. I have often envisioned speaking to students about suicide and depression, with the hope that my own experience with these issues can somehow help them to know they are not alone, to understand better what goes on in the mind of a person who is suicidal, and to provide hope for those who are struggling with depression.

The inner workings of the depressed mind can be so illusive and yet, so many experience it, they just don’t talk about it. This quote below describes the torment of living with this illness at it’s worst. From the book Darkness Visible by William Styron:

“For in virtually any other serious sickness, a patient who felt similar devastation would be lying flat in bed. … However, the sufferer from depression has no such option and therefore finds himself, like a walking casualty of war, thrust into the most intolerable social and family situations.”

Additionally, from the article cited above, this quote resonates so deeply with me:

“And it’s not pain you can look at. If I break my leg and it hurts, I can scream and scream and point at my twisted leg with maybe a femur or tibia poking out to help emphasize my point. But when your soul, your inner being, your mind, is hurt … you can’t scream and point.”

While we can’t point at it, we can bring attention to it. We can share it, we can tell others about it. I am working to organize a blogging event called, “Shatter Stigma with Your Story!” Let me know if you are interested in participating and watch the blog and the discussion linked above on WEGO Health for information about the date and “how-to’s” of the event.

I am one of the many faces of mental illness and I am not less. Let’s share this truth together, for all of those who are challenged by mental health issues.

12 thoughts on “The Face of Mental Illness

  1. Oh Amy, I am so right here with you. It is crucial that we get the word out, that we remove the stigma associated with mental illness. I have written about it on my blog, as well, but not quite as deeply. I have been sharing my story, hoping to encourage women (and men) to come out of hiding, to ask for help, to admit that they are in pain, even if it is a pain you cannot see.
    I will definitely stand with you on this!
    Bernice
    http://livingthebalancedlife.com/about/

  2. Lovely post. Chronic disease often causes an illogical, but very real, incredibly strong self-shame that is so hard to address. Thank you for sharing. Will be back often.
    Cheers,
    Headstrong

  3. That was amazingly powerful. Thank You.
    If more people talked about it, maybe more people would understand. A friend put it perfectly, to me. “I almost wish I had cancer. At least there would be hope for a cure.”
    I also suffer from anxiety and depression. I would love to join in and share my story.
    I wish you peace.

  4. Beautiful! I would definitely love to participate. I wrote about my depression on my blog recently and was so encouraged by the comments I received – some from women I had *no* idea suffered as I do. You’re SO RIGHT – there’s isn’t a “face” of depression, there’s no way you can “tell.” Wonderful post!

    • Thank you so much. I am glad that you find it inspirational. It’s totally normal to feel that shame and to be unsure of where that line is…what do we share, what do we make public knowledge? I hope that you will be completely free from any feelings of shame for any health issues that you may suffer from. I look forward to visiting your blog!

  5. Thank you. I want to do it. I want to chronicle my journey to health and wellness. It’s why I have the blog, and why I want to expand on it. I started it to keep myself motivated and learn from others how to live healthier. I’m just not sure that revealing who I am and showing my face is something I am ready for. 😦

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