It’s been a rough month. I’ve been hunkering down trying to ride out a wave of trauma related revelations that have been difficult. If I had cancer or a broken leg others would understand the need to rest, see doctors, and take my medications. I could post on social media about it and get sympathy and support. Mental illness isn’t that way.
Mental illness scares people just like physical illness does. I don’t stay quiet because people are scared of what I’m going through. I stay quiet because of shame and fear of rejection. I am usually outspoken, toughing out the critics, and fighting against my past experiences of shame and rejection. Sometimes my brain is too sick to do that. Just as with any physical illness I hide away in my bedroom to recuperate from whatever trauma has surfaced in my brain.
What can be done to change this stigma? Empathy is the antidote of shame. Practice empathy. Remember that the brain is an organ just like the heart or the lungs. It gets sick, damaged, and stressed. We have medication to help. No one insists that someone with low thyroid snap out of it, that the medications are addictive because the body continues to need them, or that all they have to do is decide they aren’t going to have low thyroid levels anymore.
There are things that will help thyroid medications work better like exercise and reducing stress, but no one tells me that I would be fine if I just got some exercise. No one tells me to wean myself off my thyroid medications or makes me feel like I’m less of a person for needing them. Not so with my anti-depressants which also manage my anxiety.
Just like all other conditions, seeking medical help, making lifestyle changes, and being informed produce the best outcomes for all types of mental illness.
You and I have the power to create the antidote needed to eradicate shame. We don’t need special labs, stricter laws, or expensive medications to cure something that kills twice as many people to suicide as from homicide.