Wednesday, December 4, 2019

We Need to Get Rid of the Stigma of Mental Illness

Mental illness is just an illness. We are so blessed to live in a day and age where there are advanced drugs and ways to treat people so they can live close to normal lives. There are so many people who are walking around with undiagnosed mental illnesses, who are not getting the help they need because they see it as a weakness. But sometimes, the chemicals in our brains just go out of sync for several reasons. There is nothing weak and bad about seeking out medical help in this area.

The last few months have been quite stressful for me because of battling with strange physical symptoms. The doctor couldn't work out what was wrong with me and did several tests. She eventually booked me into the hospital to get an MRI on my brain and to do some other tests. The MRI came out clear and I did mention that I was very anxious at the time - the day of the MRI, I couldn't stop crying and felt really low and just had a feeling this was psychological. They sent a psychiatrist to look at me. She prescribed some anti-anxiety medicine and I felt strangely better except for rather sleepy. They discharged me but sent me to a special place called Nuture for about a week. This place was amazing. I got to see a psychologist and psychiatrist every day and listened to various up-building talks about handling stress and being more assertive. The vibe of the place was amazing. The other patients and I grew so close even though we'd only known each other a few days.

In the beginning, I was a little resistant to the psychiatrist giving me meds which were a long-term solution to anxiety and also a mild anti-depressant. But she managed to convince me the necessity of it and that she would watch the symptoms. Then the root of my issue with taking meds came out when I was talking to the psychologist. It came from other peoples' ignorance pushed upon me about mental health and medicine. When I was going through my divorce, I entered into a rebound relationship with a guy and one of the things he said to me was that he didn't date women who were on meds, that he didn't like the way they acted. I seemed to remember he described them as if they became like these robots with no emotions. Because I really wanted him to take me seriously and date me, I thought "I'm sure I'll manage going through this stressful time without meds. I'm surviving." But the body has only so much stress that it can handle when it eventually reaches a point where it needs some assistance. Turns out this guy was a player anyway and I was so stupid to hope I'd get a healthy relationship with him.

A few months after the conversation with him, I was a victim of crime where I was living and it sent me into a spiral of anxiety. I went to the GP for something out of desperation and he prescribed a really strong anti-depressant that made me feel awful - I felt numb and everything seemed to close in around me. There was another man I was in contact with and who I dated for a while. I told him about it and he said that any type of mental-health medication is bad for you. So, I promptly went off them and tried to handle things without the help. We did manage to move over to a safer area and my anxiety eased.

But then this last year, I've had one stress after the other. I never wanted to take medication and tried the natural route, which works a bit, but not enough. So, in the end, I'm glad this whole thing happened and I managed to work with a professional who knows how to treat me. I'm already starting to feel better. I have my moments but the meds do take almost a month to start working fully.

It's just so sad that I was subjected to the ignorance of others with regards to my health. I never wanted to be this weird robot of a person. But I've never felt like that on the latest medicine. I was made to feel like half a woman for needing help. I know that I've suffered anxiety most of my life. In fact, it started as a teenager. I've needed this for years, but the stigma attached to getting help with mental illness often stands in the way of getting the help we need. My psychiatrist said that 1 out of 4 people suffer from anxiety disorder. Yes, I know that there are ways to work with it without meds, and I've been working so hard on those for the last few years (like meditation, self-love, exercise), but sometimes life becomes one stress after another and you struggle to keep up. Part of self-love is being holistic in our treatment - using all the ways to work together to bring us to wholeness and happiness. Finally, I've found the missing link.

I hope that the message comes out strong that we should be open to all ways to heal our mental health. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you are not a weak or bad person. It just is. It's like having a low thyroid or high blood pressure. It's not a sign of weakness to seek help but rather of strength and wisdom. It took me three years to realise this. Or let's say 30 years really. I hope no one has to suffer that long.

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