Here’s How We Can Break Down The Mental Illness Stigma Together

All of us go through many of the same experiences. We are more alike than we are different. Take a morning routine, for example. For a good majority of us, the routine typically includes brushing your teeth, taking a shower, making a fresh pot of coffee, and eating breakfast. These are only a few examples of the most basic morning tasks we may face on a daily basis.

Now imagine this: What if someone takes longer to complete a simple task than you, such as getting out of bed? Do you automatically assume without any hesitation in your mind that it’s because they are simply tired? We usually tend to think this is the only explanation in this scenario. However, we need to end this way of thinking. This is the stigma I want us to be able to break. I want us to start thinking differently, because any single one of us may be fighting an internal battle many on the outside are not even aware of. To those of you reading this who are currently struggling through a mental illness, I want to tell you four simple words: You are not alone.

There is a stigma attached to the words “mental illness” that needs to come to an end. It is not similar to a physical wound. You cannot see or feel it. You cannot see the healing process unfold, as we all are accustomed to for a physical wound. On the surface, someone may seem okay and even smile throughout the day when they are around others and pretend everything is alright. But once they are alone, the pain begins to weigh down heavily. I want to share my story because I want those of you reading this to understand that it is okay to feel what you’re feeling inside. Society has made us feel as if there is something wrong with us if we have any sort of mental illness. I am here to tell you society is wrong. There is nothing wrong with you or I.

About a year ago, I started to see a therapist. I was hesitant to go at first, but I ultimately decided it was the right course of action. Leading up to this decision, I was going through a lot internally that I chose to keep to myself. I didn’t think any of my close friends or family wanted to hear about my problems. Before I first saw my therapist, I recently got out of a relationship, I started to avoid going out with my friends, and I was working at a job that was affecting both my physical and mental health in a very negative manner. Overall, I started to distance myself from those around me. I didn’t know where or who to turn to. Luckily, therapy was there for me.

As you may expect, it was hard to open up to my therapist during the first few visits. It’s not so easy getting everything off your chest to someone you never met before. However, I grew accustomed to him and began to look forward to talking with him every other week. Over the course of my time seeing him, I started a new job, I moved out on my own, and I even took a vacation all by myself for a week to a place I have never been to before. I began to feel that I was at a much better place both physically and mentally compared to where I was before I started therapy.

To this day, I haven’t told some of my closest friends and family members that I went to see a therapist for several months. I always thought in my head that they would begin to think of me differently if I told them. But this is exactly what we should not do. We shouldn’t be afraid to tell our loved ones that we are seeking help from a therapist. Many of us don’t because it may come across as a sign of “weakness.” I’m here to tell you it’s not a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength and courage. Society has ingrained in our heads that seeing a therapist is a cowardly act to do. That it means you can’t handle your own problems. Repeat after me: Society is wrong. Keep saying that out loud until you are able to fully grasp it. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you and you only. Don’t worry about what society thinks. If you believe seeking help from a therapist is the best course of action for yourself like I did, do it.

It’s important to end the stigma which surrounds the words “mental illness.” While it’s best to rely on a therapist for help, not all of us have the resources to go down this route. I urge you to reach out to your loved ones more. If any of your close friends or family seem to be distancing themselves from you, I beg you to reach out and have a conversation with them. Ask them if anything is bothering them. And if they open up to you, listen. It is not easy to approach a friend or family member about something he or she is fighting internally. Let them open up to you. The truth is, we all have our internal issues to handle. We all have our own battles to fight and overcome. But we are not meant to go through life alone.

No one fights alone.

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