I’m Not Ashamed.

A certain news story flashed across the TV screen on CBS one evening, and I couldn’t help but find inspiration from it.

To summarize, Rachel Griffin, suffering from depression and anxiety since the age of 14, decided to start a movement toward destigmatizing mental illness with a simple hashtag #imnotashamed. Rather than keeping mental illness in the dark, she is bringing it to the light and fully exposing it. She’s even writing a dramatic work for Broadway taking place in a mental hospital, a place many may feel extremely uncomfortable. When the misconception around mental illness is still so strong, admitting those inner struggles and embracing them is no small feat, but it’s a necessary one.

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These statistics were featured in USA Today. While some areas have definitely approved, we have plenty of work left to do.

The amount of research I have done in the past few years regarding all aspects of mental illness is astounding. I have looked into diagnosing them, treating them, and spreading awareness about them. Knowledge is power. It’s a great place to start to begin realizing how important it is to tackle mental illness head-on.

A quarter of all people will face some sort of mental illness in their lifetime, so it isn’t like this is a minor problem. But because these illnesses can so easily be concealed beneath a smiling face, the tendency to avoid acknowledging their severity has become an everyday trend. Words like “depressed” and “bipolar” have become synonyms for “crazy.”

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Words like these seem to sprinkle our everyday conversations. But if we actually took the time to understand them, we might think twice.

I come from a town where suicide is all too common. I’ve sat through many assemblies and presentations about suicide, but the focus was primarily about bullying. Which admittedly is still important, but if the root of the problem is much deeper than that, teasing is but a minor detail in scheme of things. I never really learned about mental illness like I did about physical illnesses and their symptoms. For these reasons, I began experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety in middle school, but never even realized I was suffering until after graduating high school. Even my eating disorder crept in and out of my life since around the same time, but I’m just now in the process of a full recovery.

It’s great that I’m taking action now to benefit myself and lead a healthier life, but I spent far too much time in the dark about my own mental health. I had no idea what was normal or not. And I thought speaking out about it, going to a therapist or taking medication, was weak and unnecessary. That it’s just “in my head” and I can therefore handle it myself. And therein lies why someone might resort to suicide, leaving the world in shock when all they knew was the pleasant mask they put on every day.

We’ve gone too long disguising our health. If we were talking about any other illness that wasn’t just mental, we would encourage everyone to take those healthy precautions to take care of themselves. But when it comes to mental health, it’s a whole other story. Thinking of taking a day of leave because you can’t get yourself out of bed in the morning sounds lazy. A low day can apparently be fixed by just “doing things that make you happy.” We shouldn’t have to justify how we feel. Your feelings are always valid.

I long to see the day when we acknowledge mental health symptoms as equally as physical ones, when mental health education is a mandatory aspect of all curricula. Society is already taking those first steps toward changing our mindsets, but we have a long way to go. Our fear of mental illness goes back to Medieval times, when those conditions were reminiscent of inner demons. Even mental wards are still places full of fear. Many forget that some of the kindest, funniest, and most generous people on this planet are those whose minds are battlefields. But admitting yourself as a soldier in that mental war is brave and admirable; it could be a olive branch to those suffering in silence. Even those suffering without even realizing it.

I’ve gotten to a point I didn’t think I ever would with my mental health. As someone who tends to be quite guarded, I have become very open with my struggles. I have learned that although my mental health is an aspect of myself I can’t avoid, that my chemical imbalances are here to stay, that does not define who I am. But I can use it as a way to spread awareness and help others. Since reaching out, several people have contacted me telling me about how they too have struggled. Some of these people I never would have guessed would deal with similar pains that I do. It’s far too easy to get lost in your own head, and it feels like you’re stuck in your own foggy world without a moment of clarity, but knowing you aren’t alone (no matter how cliche it might sound) can help dramatically.

So if people look at me differently for taking an antidepressant every morning and seeing a therapist every week, I don’t mind. The struggles I face every day are worth it. Even days I am too numb to function, I am proud for facing each day and doing my best. And I encourage everybody, whether your mental health is fair or not, to take care of yourselves in any way possible. You are worth it.

Hi, I’m Allie, a college student from South Dakota. I have major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, mild OCD, and anorexia. And I am not ashamed.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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5 comments

  1. depressionistheenemy · August 5, 2016

    Hi Allie – this entry is brilliantly written and absolutely hits the nail on the head. I see many people on here who prefer to blog anonymously out of fear of their loved ones finding out about their illness. It saddens me -while I can understand that everybody’s situation is different and thus we must refrain ourselves from being overly judgemental, it is completely absurd that there s still a stigma to fight against. How many more people have to die unnecessarily because they’re being told that ‘it’s all in their heads’ and all that bilge.

    Apologies for the rant! Either way you’re doing something admirable here and this post accurately summarises the problems of modern society. Would you mind if I reblogged it? 🙂

    Like

    • allieknofczynski · August 5, 2016

      I would love to have you reblog and share with others! I’m so glad others are seeing how overwhelming this stigma has become.

      Like

  2. depressionistheenemy · August 6, 2016

    Reblogged this on depressionistheenemy and commented:
    If you’re looking to read something that condemns society and our own failures when it comes to broaching the subject of mental illness, then look no further than this entry from Allie Knofczynski, who is not only arguably more qualified to talk about the psychology behind the subject than I am, but who does so in such an eloquent and accurate way. People would be doing themselves a service by taking on board what she has to say. So I would implore you to do yourself a favour and listen to what she has to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Julie Corbett · August 8, 2016

    I think you did a marvelous job describing the ridiculous and unnecessary stigmas associated with mental illness. I have been battling depression and others for over 30 years now. I’m in for the long haul. That means I have accepted my diagnosis. Like you, they do not define me. However, they do help to explain my behavior and choices. Keep up the good fight! It is definitely worth it! Come by and visit my blog, you will find we are sharing many of the same things. 😉

    Like

  4. Grace · August 16, 2016

    Allie, thanks so much for your transparency and powerfully articulate message. As someone who has been diagnosed with bipolar and anorexia, your post spoke directly to my heart. Keep fighting the good fight!

    Like

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