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Standing Up to Stigma This Mental Health Awareness Month

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You know what I find outrageous? The fact that 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness, yet it is highly stigmatized and misunderstood as if is is rare. 

As if “just eat already” were the three magic words that can cure anorexia. 

As if one chooses to have a flight or fight response to a seemingly minute problem.

As if anxiety is an excuse to get out of plans last minute.

As if body dysmorphia was a ploy to get more attention.

As if you must have come from a war zone to validate that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis.

As if getting over depression was as easy as “just smile.”

As if a flashback is memory of happier times, and not a trigger for panic and hysteria. 

As if bipolar disorder was as simple as changing your mind often.

As if anorexia is superficial, and doesn’t have deep rooted issues. 

As if hating yourself so much you deprive yourself of food is trendy.

As if you can just bring yourself out of a PTSD episode in the blink of an eye. 

As if self-destructive behavior is fun. 

As if we would choose to battle our own minds day in and day out.

As if mental illness didn’t make getting out of bed some days borderline impossible. 

As if mental illness didn’t cause physical and very real pain.

As if “crazy” was the best word to describe someone who fights their mental illness tooth and nail in order to just live a life that they see come so naturally to others. 

If you are reading this right now or know that someone close to you is struggling — they are drowning. The weight of their mental illness is crushing their soul. If you are reading this right now, know… you are not alone. And you do not need to struggle in silence any more. 

You can’t tell from the outside that I am one of the 1 in 5 people who are living with mental illness. May is Mental Health Awareness Month; this May, I am saying NO to the stigmas. NO to the judgement. NO to the eating disorder. NO to the depression. NO to the anxiety. NO to the PTSD. NO to the body dysmorphia that tries to make me believe lies. NO to the voice in my head that tells me I’m unworthy.

Mental illness isn’t always pretty. Mental illness isn’t trendy. Mental illness can be heavy. It’s dark. It’s burdensome. It’s all encompassing and it dictates one’s life. This May, I am taking back control; I am speaking up. I am telling the world about my daily struggles with mental illness not only to humanize it, but normalize it as well. I hope you will too. 

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Thinkstock photo via kasto80

Originally published: May 18, 2017
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