The Importance of Educating Ourselves About the 'Touchy Subject' of Mental Illness


When we are diagnosed with a mental illness our first thought might be something like, “How long will this last?” or “What can I do or take to get better?” Many professionals in the mental health community will tell you to not immediately read about side effects of medications or symptoms of the illness, which is true.

However, educating yourself on your illness is helpful and can aid in communication with family and friends. When we learn more about our condition, we can learn not only about ourselves but a lot about other people who are experiencing the same thing. This can greatly reduce the feeling of being alone.

I was 12 years old, scared and confused when I was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder. It had been a year in hell leading up to my first psychiatrist appointment, which was the day of my first panic attack. I had just beaten myself up in my head for “not singing well enough” in front of peers. I was in my mother’s car, screaming and crying, absolutely feeling completely defeated. I was embarrassed at myself, not because I cared about the other people, but more so because I let myself down.

My mom told me the next day about panic attacks, and that the horrible experience I had the day before had been one. What is that? For me, it was crying, screaming, my throat feeling like it was closing and my chest feeling like a rock was placed on it all at the same time. It also left me feeling dizzy and lightheaded, with my eyes blurring and my breathing too fast.

Was I abnormal? I had never heard of or encountered anyone doing this before. I assumed it was just me. After reading about them a few months into my therapy, I realized a lot of people experience similar things and a lot were teenagers. Not only did I feel like I had a place to talk to others about the experience, but I also could communicate ways I cope during one and learn from them.

I learned to embrace my flaws in my illness, using them in my favor and helping me learn more about myself every day. Now, it’s just another unique trait about me. Yet, going through four years now of therapy, psychiatry visits and reading online, you begin to develop a lot of knowledge on subjects from medication interactions, to symptoms and even different treatment methods.

This is what we need in our society, to be educated on these “touchy” subjects, to speak out about things people are uncomfortable with or things we keep quiet. With mental illness being such a common problem for so many people, talking about the issues and what others can do to help out can only do good for the community. Whether it’s a loved one who is worried about you or a friend who asked about how your day was, talk to them about it. Mental illness is not scary and it is not something to be ashamed of.

Do not blame yourself. Be proud of yourself. You are unique, and your flaws make you stronger. Nothing can change who you are, and the world should know that too.

Image via Thinkstock.


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


Related to Major Depressive Disorder

Woman is sitting in profile on an old cracky floor. She is sad and depressed, crying and covering her face with hands. Studio paper background in behing her.

Grieving a Death When You Have Depression

When a family member dies, many struggle to keep their lives together. For some, everything is put on hold until after funeral arrangements are made and all the debt is payed off. Others insist that life must go on. Everyone grieves differently. What is it like to grieve when you have depression? I experience major [...]
man on the beach

My Mental Illness Is Not a Phase, and I Am Not Ashamed

I was recently at a dinner with two friends when we began discussing mental illness and mental health treatment. All three of us have openly had periods of struggle with both depression and anxiety, but we all had different takes on treatment, particularly in regards to antidepressants. “I wouldn’t go on them,” said the first [...]
Sketch portrait of a man with long hair

The Feelings of a Major Depressive Episode

I occasionally get asked what it feels like to have depression. Here’s my best attempt to put into words the effect that a major depressive episode has on my body and emotions. Remember that everyone experiences depression differently, so while these are my experiences they may not be true for you or someone you know. I’m sad all [...]
Silhouette of the beautiful girl in the nature at summer sunset

The Life of a Mother and Wife With Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder

The thing about recurrent major depressive disorder is that it never truly goes away. It may not always hinder my ability to function, but sometimes it does, and right now it is. I find myself sad, irritable, restless, exhausted, anxious, and overwhelmed. It takes everything I have to complete daily household tasks and take care [...]