What It Would Sound Like to Talk About Mental Illness With No Shame


Anxiety. Obsessive compulsive disorder. Bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia. Self-harm. Depression. Post traumatic stress disorder.

If we talk about these topics at all, we lower our voices. Our tone often becomes apologetic, entreating others to understand we know. We acknowledge this great personal failure of having a mental illness or a mental health issue is entirely ours, our lack of optimism, strength or faith, our weakness. We may even whisper we’re sorry. We’re trying to get better.

If we are not talking about ourselves but instead, a loved one, a friend or even a child, we may feel the vague shame of it seeping into our words, as though somehow this is a reflection of us, of something we did or didn’t do. We may not speak of it at all. How would it look? What might someone think of us if they knew?

Oftentimes, these are the things we try to hide. The things we work hard, so hard, to not acknowledge because of the stigma still attached to issues of mental health. So much of what we experience remains in the shadows. The light that would penetrate the darkest and loneliest corners of our lives, the light of connection and honesty that would flood the soul with brilliance, reflecting like pure sunlight off gleaming wooden floors, remains hidden. The stigma attached with mental health issues has such a strong hold over society that it almost can’t be broken.

These are the things we whisper into the darkness. I struggle. I struggle with depression. I struggle with anxiety. I have OCD. I experienced postpartum depression. Or post-adoption depression. I have trouble getting out of bed some days. I have panic attacks. I can’t sleep at night. I have extreme social anxiety. I binge eat.

What might we say if there was no stigma? No shame? No accusations of weakness? People who have mental health issues do not have these issues because they are weak or because they lack faith or strength. People can struggle, can positively wrestle with anxiety, an eating disorder or bipolar disorder and still be incredibly strong.

They can be stronger because of their challenges.

What if we could show compassion for others who struggle with mental health issues? What if we could meet them where they are? Allow them to step into the light without the weight of judgement? What if we could convey their health too is a precious thing? That their struggle, rather than something to be hushed up and ashamed of, is a brilliant and brave thing.

What if we could say: I hear you. I see you. I think you’re brave, strong and very good. I am so proud of you. I always will be. I will stand with you, stand behind you or beside you or in front of you, whatever you prefer and I will hold your hand and you won’t do this alone.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.



Related to Mental Health

closeup of some unlit candles and just one lit candle after blowing out the cake

To the People Who Have a Difficult Time on Their Birthdays

There’s an expectation of birthdays. Numbers one through 39 are all great celebrations. They’re the best day of the year. Once you hit the 40th, you are expected to have low-key dinners with a few close friends so you aren’t reminded too heavily of the years that lay behind. While this may be true for some people, it is certainly not [...]

The 2 Shows That Portrayed Therapy the Right Way

Out of all of the things I have read and watched in the last few years that address mental health, I feel two shows handle it in a way that showcases the struggle, and breaks down the stigma of seeking help. The first is Chris Traeger’s journey on “Parks and Recreation.” I love that therapy for him is [...]
Woman holding handful of sand shaped like a heart

The Questions That Haunt Someone With Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are hard to endure. Sometimes, you start asking the bittersweet question, “Am I good enough?” Am I a good enough friend, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister? Am I good enough at my job, hobbies and passions? Am I good enough to be loved, respected and helped? Am I good enough to [...]
Illustration in pop art style of a woman's eye crying

Why I Seek Out Things That Will Make Me Cry

Weddings, graduations and animals being adopted all make me cry. Sometimes I watch videos of soldiers coming home to their families because I know the tears will flow like water from a faucet. You may think it’s odd that I actually want to cry. You may think I’m trying to make myself sad, but not [...]