Anxiety and I have been in a relationship for a long time. There hasn’t been a time in my life, that I can remember, where I wasn’t struggling with it.
The thing about anxiety, and mental illness in general, is you’re not only experiencing your own version of hell in your mind, but you’re also having to navigate through and survive in a world full of stigma and discrimination.
I hated it when people discovered I had anxiety. It was like I was wearing my own version of the scarlet letter, and I could just tell they looked at me differently. I instantly felt judged.
Let’s get real for just a second. When was the last time you judged someone for having diabetes? Most decent human beings would never! It still baffles me that some people believe our minds are somehow separate from our bodies! The last time I checked, my brain still lives inside this head of mine. You know, the one attached to my neck!
I apologize for my passion here, but it’s just something I have strong feelings about (if you couldn’t already tell! 🙂 )
Aside from the discrimination and meanness that does exist towards those with mental illness, there are others out there who are simply curious and willing to learn more and do better.
Many well-intentioned individuals may say hurtful things to someone with mental illness due to a lack of understanding. And when they know better, they do better.
I’m a big believer in giving people the chance to do better. I would hope to have the chance to do better myself. We are only human and far from perfect.
As someone who has lived with anxiety, I’ve experienced misconceptions about it. Here are 3 common misconceptions about people with mental illness.
And a note to my fellow Mental Health Warriors, let’s never stop sharing with the world what it really feels like to be one.
3 Common Misconceptions About People With Mental Illness
# 1 – We are weak
I have heard time and time again that I was weak.
Weak because I wasn’t the first to take the lead on something, weak because I would judge and second-guess myself and my abilities, weak because overwhelm would often get the best of me.
What’s so ironic is that weakness is the exact opposite of what we are. The very act of getting out of bed each morning shows how strong we are.
Mental illness is a battle. One we go through every second of every day. It never stops.
Think about that. Someone with mental illness goes about their day experiencing the hardships of life just like everyone else, BUT they’re also carrying this persistent mental pain and suffering with them. It takes one tough cookie to push through all of that!
And let me be very clear, we are not seeking your pity. We are only seeking your understanding and respect.
# 2 – We should just cheer up and get over it
I often heard this from people who meant well. They wanted me to feel better, and they couldn’t seem to understand why I couldn’t just be happy.
The assumption here is that mental illness is a choice. Far, far from the truth.
When was the last time you chose to be ill? Never!
If mental illness were a choice, not one living soul would choose it. And if it were that simple to cheer up, no one would ever be unhappy. Ever.
Although most mental health problems are treatable, and complete recovery from many mental health issues is often possible, it is not an overnight process.
# 3 – Everyone goes through the same thing. We are just being overly sensitive or dramatic.
There are individuals out there who believe that mental illness is only an exaggeration. And not an actual condition.
I’ve had someone tell me once that everyone feels depressed, and that this too shall pass. Again, I know they meant me well. And I am grateful to each and every well-intentioned individual I have encountered. But, it’s hurtful to tell someone with debilitating anxiety, depression, or any other form of mental illness, that they can just wake up tomorrow and feel better. It is not that simple.
And when we hear this, it only makes us feel worse.
When I was told this, I started to feel like there was even more “wrong” with me because I couldn’t wake up and feel better. I began to question whether I was being too sensitive. This only led to more self-hate and unhealthy thoughts.
So, to my well-intentioned friends, the next time someone opens up to you about their mental illness, just be present with them. Listen actively. And validate their feelings. No advice needed.