I am ashamed to have a mental illness
One young person shares their experience of dealing with mental health stigma
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Should I be ashamed? Absolutely not! 1 in 4 people suffer from mental illnesses I just happen to be one of them.
Today while walking into the college library with a friend after a study break, I lied about my seat being on the 1st floor, so I could leave her heading onto the 2nd floor, scoot around, back down the stairs to my actual seat in the Disability area. This is a small room in the library where students registered with the disability office can study in a smaller, quieter environment, along with access to fantastic technology equipment for those who need it. Since using this part of the library I have been able to study so much better. Crowds of people and the rush to find a seat would drive my anxiety through the roof and especially now that it is exam time it gives me such great peace of mind to know I can study in a place with less people.
But I can't tell my friends this. Why? Because I'm embarrassed to say I find large crowds too intimidating. And yes this is a fault of mine, I find it hard to open up to people but it is also a problem of society. Only in the last few years it has become ok to talk about mental illness. People who suffer with mental health problems are sometimes seen as failures, weak or liars. No wonder people find it hard to ask for help. I am so lucky to have the most amazing family, friends and team of mental health professionals who support and care for me and yet, I still, six years later of suffering from anxiety and depression find it hard to ask for help at times. I don't want to be annoying people or be the whiney, boring one. I'm known for constantly saying “really sorry” or “are you sure that's ok”. But I have the support, I have a huge group of people who I know are always there for me. What's it like for people who don't?
If I had a broken leg, there would be no problem. I wouldn't be expected to walk up the stairs of the library. It would be presumed that I would sit on the bottom floor of the library. Why are mental illnesses looked at differently? Again it's the stigma associated with having a mental health problem. It causes people like me to be ashamed of suffering with a mental health illness, when I shouldn't be.
I think part of the problem with the stigma attached to mental health is that people, myself included, associate mental health with just the mental health disorders but it's not just about this. It wasn't until someone said to me recently, “Your mental health concern’s all to do with your emotional wellbeing, the good and the bad.” This made me rethink the whole idea of mental health and my own recovery. Yes, I have a problem with my mental health but I'm getting help and hopefully someday I will have good mental health. Just like if I broke my leg I would require help to get me back to my usual physically healthy self, this is no different but that it's my mind I need help with.
So I decided after taking my seat in the library I'm not going to be embarrassed about having a mental illness anymore. My anxiety and depression don't define me. They are just two parts of my life that I struggle with. They are not the whole me. While I won't be spilling out the things I'm dealing with to those close to me just yet, as I think it's important to know you should only tell people what you are comfortable with. You are allowed to keep some things private! But I would like to be able to say “I'm not ignoring you, I just need some time alone” or “I sit in the disability area as I find it easier to study there”. I know that will take time but that's ok. Right now accepting that I don't need to be embarrassed about having difficulties with my mental health is good enough for me. However, at this moment I'm too nervous to put my name to this piece but hopefully one day I'll be able to say I wrote this and maybe be proud of it. That's not me being embarrassed, that's just my anxiety kicking in!