Addressing the Final Taboo That Is Talking About Mental Illness
To my wonderful family and friends,
As some of you may have personally experienced and many of you have come to realize over the years, our mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety are not signs of weakness; they are signs of trying to remain strong for too long.
We are often asked to explain what depression and anxiety feel like, as others sometimes struggle to comprehend our illness. In a great number of those who live with mental illness, the pain we feel can’t be seen or explained and often goes unheard. It can feel like we are fighting an ongoing persistent war inside our heads — one that envelops us to the core and leaves us struggling for a purpose, for reasons that are often foreign to us.
We seek professional help in various forms, confide in friends and family, try medications, meditate, exercise and above all else, try to tell ourselves we each have a purpose — that were put on this earth to make a difference, however small or insignificant we may feel our contribution to be.
As someone once said, we must accept what we can’t change and change what we can’t accept. For those of us who have accepted our mental health struggles and are actively trying to engage in the recovery process, daily life can often be a constant, perilous struggle filled with an overwhelming amount of pain and anxiety. When the fog clears, we are often only left with short bursts or periods of satisfaction and enjoyment, waiting with fear for the next installment of debilitating pain and overwhelming sadness. For those of us who manage to resurface from the binding constraints of mental illness to live a meaningful existence, we are often forced to live a life of prevention, whereby we must do our best to avoid inducing any kind of stress or danger to our psyche for fear of relapse.
My 20s have been a tumultuous time, filled with highs I never thought I was capable of feeling and experiencing, and lows I never thought I was capable of surviving. It has been an ongoing battle between what the OCD and anxiety feed my psyche and what I, myself, know to be true. This internal battle materializes in uncontrollable physical symptoms, whereby I am often unable to commit to anything, often cancel plans and more often than not, leave others wondering if I’m OK. Thankfully, the support and understanding of both my wonderful friends and family has helped me to feel less alone and has provided an avenue of understanding.
As I approach my 30s, my outlook on the world and the part we all play in it has changed dramatically. In order to survive, we must pave our own path based on our individual needs, morals and values. Instead of overextending and committing ourselves to a life built around societal expectations, take the time to really think about what’s important to you and what will make the most difference to your life and overall recovery. In my case, that means investigating and exploring the range of options available to those struggling with anxiety and OCD, as well as being more gentle and attentive to my mental health, instead of always pushing it to the sidelines.
Although it may sound cliché and tiresome, happiness really does depend on ourselves. If your mental health and quality of life is greatly affected by your current circumstances, consider revisiting what’s important to you and reassessing your priorities. As we all know, life is full of moving parts, most of which we can’t control. However, it’s important to remember we can only do our best in the time we are here.
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Thinkstock photo via Staras.