I have written briefly before about how being honest about my mental illness has played a huge role in my recovery, but I don’t think I have expressed just how much it has positively affected me.
I would consider myself blessed for the fact that I come from a tight-knit family who is accepting and encourages honesty, no matter the situation. My mom promised me at a young age – and still continues to remind me – that no matter how bad, embarrassing, or regretful the situation is, she would not judge. She promised that there would be no repercussions for honesty. There have been an abundance of times since then, that I have made sure she remembers this.
Because of this, I have always had someone to lean on, in good times and in very, very bad. Because of this, I haven’t had to deal with the anxiety that consumes me, on my own.
I remember being 13 years old and begging my parents not to tell anyone of my mental illness. I didn’t want anyone to know that there was “something wrong with me” and I for sure didn’t want anyone to know that I spent my days crying, as I tried to manage my obsessive-compulsive behaviours and the negative thoughts that filled my brain. But, the day that I was put on crutches for a knee injury, I was thrilled to tell my friends and family. It took me until I was about 17 years old to truly see the stigma that surrounds mental illness and instil in myself that it’s okay not to be okay.
Since this post is all about honesty, I am going to be truthful with all of you that opening up about my mental illness has not always been a positive experience. I have heard just about everything from, “you just have to try to be more positive” to “everyone has shit going on”. Although, some of these reactions have left me feeling more alone than ever, the times of acceptance and empathy make up for it all.
The moment I stopped hiding my mental illness, was the moment I accepted who I am. I accept that like any chronic physical illness, depression and anxiety will remain apart of me. I accept that I will need friends and family to lean on in hard times, and those hard times may come more often to me than what is considered “normal”. Most importantly – tho I still struggle with this often – I have committed to the belief that I am not a burden, and if I feel like I am, it is the stigma, not me, that needs refinement.
Be open. Talk to you doctors about your options. Remember that there are people who chose years of education after high school, and have committed their lives to helping you.
Please, don’t struggle in silence.
Photography by Cella Lao Rousseau @hellorousseau.