I hope everyone is having a great week so far.
Anyone who is a writer, professionally or not, will relate to what I’m about to say. When inspiration hits, all you want to do is write. I can’t even count the times that I’ve been inspired to talk about something, but don’t, because of the stigma surrounding mental health and the fear of oversharing.
It is not even that I CARE what others think about me sharing my story, but it’s the fact that people in my family aren’t comfortable with me talking about that. Why is that? STIGMA. Sadly, they are right. As open-minded as I may be, many still are NOT and will judge those harshly for struggling with any type of mental health issue, nevermind publicly talking about the taboo subject!
I know our society is changing and slowly but surely, people are starting to address this issue, but let’s be clear, it is still an issue. The reason I feel that it’s an issue is because so many people truly believe they are alone when it comes to mental health, and I really don’t like that. It bothers me to know that young girls are growing up the same way I did and thinking they are the only ones facing anxiety or depression, when I can almost guarantee that that is never the case. The thing is that people fear being judged and oversharing, as I do, and so the cycle continues. The person with anxiety thinks no one can relate, and their neighbour thinks the exact same thing.
I had an anxiety related phobia years ago that I thought was SO BIZARRE that I would never have said it out loud. Last week, I was watching a YouTube video, and one of my favourite influencers was chatting about having this exact same fear. As you can imagine, I was completely shocked that someone else had the same fears that I did. I scrolled through the comments to see many others writing things like, “NO WAY! ME TOO!!!” Imagine we lived in a world where it was acceptable to discuss issues like this? It wouldn’t seem so “taboo” or rare, and ultimately, that would help others to feel more accepted and like they aren’t a complete outsider.
Imagine if you broke your leg. No one would feel awkward talking about it. Actually, on the other hand, people would likely be understanding! Your work might find modified duties for you and your friends and family will likely help you get around.. Hell, they even sign your cast! So why is it that if you suffer from panic attacks, for example, suddenly you can’t talk about it, and if you do, it’s completely disregarded. I understand this is not always the case, but I feel that it is far too often. Mental health is health, and unfortunately we still live in a world where that isn’t fully understood. Employers will tell you to brush it off or that “everyone has nerves”, and the lack of knowledge on mental health eventually becomes very frustrating and almost impossible to deal with.
The reason this issue is so dear to me is because I spent a large majority of my childhood and adolescence thinking I was a complete freak for dealing with anxiety. Had I known that other people also faced issues like this, it probably would have been a lot easier on me. Because of the lack of understanding in our world, I honestly avoid discussing it in my personal life, regardless. This isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s more just about me realizing that sadly people do not understand that mental health is far more complex than people think.
Many times I’ve decided to confide in someone close to me about my anxiety. I get responses like, “Don’t be nervous… you’ll be fine… just relax…”. I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating it is hearing this as someone with an anxiety disorder. I have a close friend who suffers from depression. The advice he often receives is to “just be happy”. It’s like telling someone with a sprained ankle to “just walk”. I’m sure these people aren’t giving this advice maliciously. They are truly trying to help their friend. If society allowed more knowledge on these issues, they probably would be better equipped to deal with these things. As I mentioned earlier, I’m choosing not to get into the details of my own experience, however I know I’m not alone, and NEITHER ARE YOU.
I really hope that one day our world gets to a place where people with mental health issues will be more understood and as a society, we can all be more educated about what it really means. I will continue to do my part to advocate in any way I can. Last year, my friends and I participated in a fundraiser for CAMH, which is the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. I love that events like this exist, even if it gets people talking just for a little while.
If you are going through something, just know that you aren’t alone. There are a lot of great resources out there, and even online. You can always reach out to talk to these professionals, or even me, if you ever need someone to talk to. As weird and unique as you may think you are, I guarantee that there is almost always someone you know who is feeling the exact same way. 🙂
Have an awesome day, and I will talk to you on Sunday.
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