The “s” word.
“You should do this because everyone else is.”
“You should rethink this decision because it doesn’t go with what I would do.”
Six months ago, someone I thought very dear to my heart told me the four things I should fix about myself/my life in order to be happier. In order to be “me” again.*
Six months ago I was also diagnosed with a single episode of major depressive disorder after prolonging that diagnosis for quite a few months.
Mental illness is moving its way on up the list of things that are okay to talk about nowadays, which is good. It’s a great step, but just that- a step. Unfortunately, many people have the idea that mental illness should look a certain way, should feel a certain way. Should. The word can be harmless- but when directed in a way intended to tell someone how they should feel, act, look, speak, etc.? That’s where the harm creeps in. Especially pertaining to mental illness, the only shoulds that should happen are “I should love you better,” “I should try to understand more of what you’re going through.”
Mental illness cannot be contained in a box. There are varieties of illnesses, and each of those illnesses have their own varieties of symptoms and appearances. Anxiety is not just stress. Depression is not just feeling sad. Obsessive compulsive disorder is not just wanting things to be orderly. These three, as well as other disorders, interfere day-by-day with people’s lives. You may not know it when you meet a person that they are dealing with any of these; we don’t walk around with labels on us. On the contrary, most people suffering from a mental illness are the last people you would have pegged to suffer. These disorders are a nudge on a shoulder, a voice in the back of a mind whispering “stay home,” “she’s pretending to be nice,” or “he doesn’t really love you, why would he?”
But like I said, those experiencing mental illness can experience it in a multitude of ways. Mental illness is a living, thriving, spreading epidemic and needs to be combatted. It is telling us we should give up, we should never have left the house, we shouldn’t eat, or we should eat too much. Should. Should. Should. Shoulds plague mental illness on its own and is only fed by those who, upon confiding about needing help, simply tell us those four objective shoulds.* Mental illness is fought by those who, upon confiding about needing help, ask “how can I help you?” “how can I be a better friend to you?” “I’m always here if you need me,” “help me understand your illness.”
Mental illness is fought by love, y’all. That’s it. Plain and simple. Love people to help them love themselves. Love intentionally, too. Speak words with care, give your actions with the full, awesome intent to help one another. In the past six months, I have been overwhelmed by my beautiful, beautiful friends that have fled to my side and provided comfort and support. They’ve helped redirect my eyes more fiercely upon Jesus and I have been overflowing with graciousness. However, this makes me an extraordinarily lucky human- many people who suffer from mental illness do not have even one person to come to their sides and hold their hands. Many people who suffer from mental illness won’t speak up about it.
So this is to those people: mental illness does not indicate a weakness in your personality and/or being. A physical illness doesn’t indicate that, so why would a mental one? The best way to get help with a mental illness is to seek help. It’s scary, telling people, it is. You don’t know how anyone can react- but even having one trusted individual can go a long way.
Mental illness is real, it is a problem, and it is hurting people. Let’s fight it by educating ourselves on what it is, what goes on during mental illness, and things we can do to help people. Let’s erase the shoulds and the stigmas and promote love and intentionality.
Okay now here’s some facts straight from National Alliance on Mental Illness. You totally SHOULD look at them lol.
- 1 in every 5 American adults experience a mental illness.
- LGBTQ community is 2x more likely to experience a mental illness.
- 16 million (6.9% of the population) American adults live with major depression.
- 42 million (18.1% of the population) American adults live with an anxiety disorder.
- 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness; suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- HOWEVER- suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in ages 10-24.
- Nearly 60% of adults with a mental illness didn’t receive mental health services in the past year.
Here is a positron emission tomography (PET) scan comparing a depressed and normal brain:
…and normal vs. anxiety:
Here are links to some helpful websites:
Alright rant over. Jesus loves ya. Peace.