To the People Who Post About Their Mental Illness Online
To the people who post on social media about their struggle with mental illness — I cannot thank you enough. Prior to my own struggle, I’ll admit, I was the person who was convinced it was all for attention. After my own struggle, I’ve realized how important it is to share your struggle with others. The people who had posted about their struggle with depression, anxiety disorder, etc. came to mind a lot when I was first struggling to cope with anxiety and honestly, made a huge difference in learning to live with it.
Mental illness can make you feel so isolated. The best thing I can compare it to is that horrible teenage angst (cue screaming, “No one understands me!” and dramatically throwing self on bed). It’s really hard, sometimes even impossible to explain your feelings to other people. Even if you can find the right words, they still probably won’t understand how debilitating it actually is. Not being able to express your feelings can be so frustrating and can make you feel “crazy,” which you’re not. Knowing there are other people, even just acquaintances from school, who have been through what you’re going through, can make you feel more “normal.”
Mental illness affects 1 in 5 Canadians. It indirectly affects every Canadian during their lifetime, whether it’s through a friend, family member or colleague. Mental illness is fairly common, so it should be a fairly normalized discussion topic, but it’s not. The media often casts people with mental illnesses as “crazy” and “unpredictable,” but the more people post about their mental illness coexisting with their everyday life, the less negative connotative there will be.
It gets better. This is social media after all, so generally speaking, people don’t post about their mental illness until they have gotten through the hard part, and their life has improved. This is a great reminder to people just beginning to learn about how to deal with mental illness — that it does get better. Seeing someone’s story about how they were just as low as you may feel now, and how they overcame it can be great motivation to get help.
Another great thing about people posting their story is they often outline what worked for them, and how they have learned to cope with their illness. I believe reaching out for help is sometimes the most difficult step, and personally it took me a long time. I’m really fortunate that my mom is an Registered Nurse who specializes in mental health, so she knew exactly what avenues to use to get me the help I needed. A lot of other people have no idea where to reach out. For example, the first time I reached out for help, I made an appointment with a counselor at school, who basically told me since my grades were not declining, I didn’t need her help. Super discouraging for someone who built up the courage to reach out for help. Not everyone needs the same kind of help, but it’s nice to have a starting point based on someone else’s experience. Another important point this highlights — it’s OK to need help sometimes. Most people do.
These are just a few points that one small post can drive home, a small message with a big impact. Thank you for being so strong. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. Thank you.
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Thinkstock photo via Ingram publishing.