On April 7, 2016, we would like to see #IAmNotAshamed trending all over social media. Why? Because, we would like to raise awareness for mental illness and suicide prevention. This is for any one that HAS a mental illness or has a friend or family member that they love with all of their heart that has a mental illness. This is also for any survivors of suicide loss. It is for anyone that has ever contemplated suicide, and it is to encourage others to reach out. You do NOT have to be silent any longer.
There was once a time when people were so ashamed if they were diagnosed with a mental illness. They felt as if society would shun them, and often times, they did due to not understanding mental illnesses. People were uneducated about them and afraid of what they did not understand. I have a friend right now who has been battling with her Bi-Polar diagnosis for YEARS. I’m talking 30 plus years. She knew early on that something wasn’t quite right, but she could not put her finger on it. After years of being misdiagnosed, often times being told that it was “all in her head” as if she were making it all up, she felt so much shame over what she was going through. When she was officially diagnosed and began treatment, she had a mixture of great relief tied in once more with a tremendous amount of shame. Yet, no one asks to be mentally ill no more than anyone asks to be Diabetic. Why, then, is it more acceptable in the world to be Diabetic, yet people who are suffering from mental illness hang their head low and are eat up with guilt and shame? No one ASKS for this. It is a hand that has been dealt to them, and they are trying to cope the best way they know how. It would help if society did not label them, shun them, or act as if they need to be locked away from the rest of the world forever. In some cases, there are individuals that do need supervision thus the need for special inpatient care. However, others are extremely high functioning individuals, just as my friend I was talking about earlier. She holds herself together quite well in public to the point that you would never even imagine that she has a mental illness. She is highly educated, having earned her Masters Degree, and she presents herself in a polite and dignified manner. Yet, inside, it is a constant struggle each and every day to get out of bed and simply function. WHY should she walk around full of shame over her diagnosis? She sought HELP, and that is the most important thing right there. Yes, she has a mental illness, but she sought help! AND she is on medicine now that they finally got her diagnosis right AND have the right combination of medicines in her system to help. She has to take medicine for the rest of her life, but she should not have to feel ashamed no more than a person taking medicine to maintain and help their diabetes.
A few years ago, a young lady that is very near and dear to my heart reached out for help! She was struggling with depression, and it took a LOT for her to admit this. I’ll never forget us driving down the road just randomly talking about anything and everything when she suddenly fell silent. I noticed her voice began to shake when she finally started to speak as she asked, “Does depression run in families?” I knew exactly why she asked this as her grandmother and aunt suffered with depression. I realized the seriousness of the situation and that she wouldn’t have just randomly asked this question. I eased into this subject matter, and soon she revealed her struggles. Little by little, she opened up. As she shared, I knew she needed to be seen by a medical professional immediately. I did not want to push her or scare her away, so I listened as she began opening up more and more. We talked for a long time, and finally I asked if she would be open to speaking to a healthcare professional. Thankfully, she was, and we made an appointment the very next day. I told her I’d go with her to the appointment, and I did. The doctor started her on anti depressants and referred her to a counselor. I went with her to the counselor’s appointment as well for moral support. She began taking the medicine daily and talking with the counselor on a weekly basis. She was so brave for admitting that she was struggling! She took such a courageous step in getting the help she needed! Today she is thriving and enjoying life to the fullest, and I couldn’t be more proud of her!
I also know someone that has a lot of anxiety. I used to be JUST like that, eat up with it at times. There was a time when I was ashamed of how out of control my anxiety would get, but then I realized that I had to get to the source of what was making me feel so anxious. The root cause was that I was in an unhealthy, toxic environment at work that was not helping. Actually, that is when the anxiety surfaced and grew worse. When I wasn’t working, I did not have the anxiety or panic attacks. But going into work each and every day to coworkers that took great pride in throwing things across my desk, placing things over what I was currently writing when I was on the phone with a client, and barging into my office unannounced making demands on me when I was working on payroll and confidential information … just to name a few of the things that I had to put up with on a daily basis … added to my anxiety to the point that I started to dread going into work because of what I knew I would face that day. I understand that counselors say that I was causing my own anxiety within myself when I would think of these situations or would be put in these types of situations. It was my thoughts about the situations that caused my anxiety, yet WHY did the people doing this NOT respect me enough to treat me BETTER? That is what I could not understand. I would never treat someone like this, and yet here I was subjected to it every … single … day! Monday through Friday of EVERY week! I thought I would give the people the benefit of the doubt as maybe, just maybe, they didn’t realize what they were doing or how they were coming across. Maybe they were just stressed and it was coming out in this way without their knowledge. However, when I spoke to them about it, they let me know that they were aware of how they were coming across yet did not care because their actions toward me were NOT going to change. So I was expected to continue to put up with this behavior? Ah, I think NOT! I tried to deal with it the best way I knew how because I LOVED my job. I did not enjoy being mistreated by my coworkers, but I enjoyed the work that I did. I had a counselor that I worked with tell me that if I can’t change the situation, I needed to change the way I viewed the situation. While it was true that I could not change my coworker’s actions and behavior toward me, I did have the power to change the situation. When you’re in an unhealthy, toxic environment that isn’t going to change – even after attempting to talk to management over it – the only choice you have is to stay and put up with it or LEAVE … and can you guess which one I chose to do? I LEFT! I took control of the situation when the individuals would not change, and I LEFT! I removed myself from that toxic environment. It took a lot for me to finally throw in the towel and say that I just would not subject myself to this treatment each and every day. BUT it has been one of the best things I could have done! It was only after watching Julie Robert’s movie, “Eat, Love, Pray,” that I came to realize that things needed to change in my life … and change they DID!! Why continue to go into a job where they treat you this way? The question of the century is: WHY wouldn’t management do anything about it? I have no idea, but that is why the bullies get worse! They are allowed to continue with their mistreatment of others because the “higher ups” won’t do a darn thing about it. I was once eat up with anxiety, taking anti-anxiety pills like they were candy to try to cope with the mistreatment from others. However, when I left that job, I NO LONGER had to take those pills! The anxiety seemed to fade away, and it was confirmation that what I did by quitting that job was the best thing for me and my family! There was once a time when I was ashamed that I had issues with anxiety, and I was told I was “too sensitive.” But, NO MORE! I speak freely of the anxiety that filled my body so that others will know that they can speak freely themselves! You do not have to remain a prisoner! I encourage you to reach out for help if you feel that you have an overwhelming amount of anxiety in your life. IF you need help coping, so be it! ASK for it! Even if you only have to take the medicine for a short amount of time, that is what it is there for!! You don’t have to worry about becoming dependent upon it. It can be used short term, and then you can taper off of it when it is no longer needed. I just praise God that I left that toxic work environment four years ago, and PRAISE GOD I haven’t taken an anti-anxiety pill since!
I also want to speak to you from the standpoint of being a survivor of suicide loss. My sister took her own life after suffering with Postpartum Depression. I feel that if my sister had been in her right mind, this never would have happened. She wouldn’t have intentionally inflicted this pain upon our family. She would not have left her two week old daughter without a mother. Had she been in her right mind, she would still be here. I believe that to this very day! My sister suffered – in silence – as most people do that have Postpartum Depression. They are so consumed with guilt and shame as this is supposed to be the happiest time in their lives when they have a little baby! Yet, they are truly struggling and are afraid to reach out for help. Oh how I wish my sister had reached out. I wish she had let us know before it had gotten to the point to where she felt helpless in her struggle. I wish she had let us get her help before she took matters into her own hands. If I could turn back the hands of time, she would still be here with us as I would have moved Heaven and Earth to get her help … if she had only reached out at that critical moment when she felt all hope was lost. I imagine she felt ashamed that when she should have been so overcome with joy, she was consumed with grief. Postpartum Depression is hard to understand, for the person going through it and the person watching their loved ones suffer. But, please know that you don’t have to be ashamed … if Postpartum Depression has touched your life, you don’t have to sit in silence. You don’t have to be a statistic. You don’t have to take matters into your hands. Help is available! Please talk to someone and let them know how you are truly struggling so you can get the help you need. IF you are a family member of someone that has just had a baby, please watch them carefully and be there … just be there with them and for them as much as possible. IF you notice ANYTHING out of the ordinary, don’t wait – get them help immediately. Be there for them and let them know that they do not need to be ashamed to ask for help.
That’s the point I want to make in this post today. It takes a very strong and courageous person to admit that they need help! There is NO shame … NONE whatsoever! HELP IS AVAILABLE! You do not have to suffer in silence. Please, reach out and get the help you need. Take that step! I did with my anxiety, and my friend did with her mental illness. Now, I encourage you to as well.
Will you join me and many others today? Stand up and say, “I am not ashamed!” In doing so, you just might be the encouragement that others need to prompt them to reach out for help! Get to talking about mental illness. Talk about anxiety and depression. Let’s also talk about Postpartum Depression. Let’s bring awareness to suicide prevention!
If you, yourself, are struggling, talk to a friend or loved one – ask for prayer from your pastor – and call your doctor to make an appointment. HELP IS AVAILABLE! Please, reach out!