I was 12 years old when I began seeing a therapist for the first time. Even back then I remember struggling with my self-worth and battling with body-image issues. I was ashamed of who I was.
Shortly after I began therapy I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was a raging battle going on inside my head that would lead to many other underlying problems, even several years down the road.
To be honest, I didn’t really even know what therapy was when I first began. I was pretty convinced that it was just this secret place where I went each week to complain about all the inconvenient “problems” my middle school self had *eye roll*.
I was young but I knew to keep my mouth shut about being in therapy and battling with depression. NO ONE outside the four walls of my therapist’s office could know that I was seeing a professional counselor.
I wasn’t just stopping by to see the school counselor, who’d give every student a piece of candy and a shoulder squeeze each time they’d come in — probably crying because their bff had decided to be bffs with someone else, who was like, so mean.
Most of us have grown up in a society that, for most of our lives, has put a stigma around words like “mental illness” and “therapy”. As young adolescents, words like these and those related, were treated like cuss words, except people didn’t think you were “cool” if you used them casually in a sentence. Instead, people would pretty much run the other way at the sound of such stigmatized and misunderstood words.
How sad, honestly.
After about a year of therapy, my therapist suggested I get on some anti-depressants. My initial thought was, Are you insane?!? Those are for crazy people!
I didn’t want ANOTHER stigmatism placed on me. Who would?? You could say I was very reluctant to the idea.
About two weeks later I found myself in the passenger seat of my mom’s car. Yep, she was taking me to a psychiatrist — who would be prescribing me these “crazy pills”.
I’m not going to say I was taken there against my will….. BUTTTTT *cough cough* I was taken there against my will *cough cough*.
To my surprise though, the crazy pills actually helped. A LOT. It took some time to figure out the right kind and the right dosage, but after awhile I felt as though my my mind had finally returned to its equilibrium.
A couple years of therapy and crazy pills came and went and I still remained silent about my mental health. I couldn’t tell my friends at school, they’d think I was a freak. I refused to speak of it in my small group at church, they’d ban me from entering their doors ever again. I mean, as Christians aren’t we supposed to ONLY rely on Jesus and HIS healing and HIS guidance for things like this??? Seeking any other guidance or medicinal aid apart from God would be seen as a lack of faith and spiritual weakness, wouldn’t it???
All I have to say about that is… BOLOGNA!!
Not trying to step on any toes here, because I do TRULY believe God is the ultimate Healer and the only One who can give us true peace. BUT I also believe that God intended for us to seek help from others when we are in desperate need of it. He intended for us to lean on one another and use the resources that HE created.
Let me put it like this… if you got your foot chopped off and doctors and medical assistants showed up to help, would you send them away and not allow them to help you and then just lie there and pray, “God, I know You are the only One who can help me. So I will lie here and wait for your healing hand.”??
NO! Definitely not! You’d be thanking God that He sent medical assistance to you before it was too late! I mean, yeah God COULD perform a miracle and completely heal you himself (could you imagine the headline of that news story??). But I’m gonna go ahead and say that the chances of that occurring are quite slim.
I got back on my anti-depressants a couple months ago. I have also begun taking some medication for my anxiety as well, and let me just tell ya… I am SO THANKFUL God created therapists and crazy pills that help keep me functioning! They aren’t “miracle workers” by any means (only God can perform those), but they DO help re-align my thoughts and allow me to better control my emotions during high-stress situations.
Anywayyssss, back to what I was trying to say…
Growing up, I didn’t feel as though I could talk about my mental health. I couldn’t tell any of my classmates what I was doing Tuesday’s after school. When I had friends stay the night, I felt like I had to lie about what the real purpose was of the little blue pill I took every morning. And I DEFINITELY couldn’t tell them I wasn’t actually on a week-long vacation with no cell phone service the summer before my freshman year — that I had actually landed myself in a psychiatric hospital after a very dark and emotional episode.
I was embarrassed. Ashamed. Scared of what people would say. What they would think.
Looking back, I wish I would’ve been honest from the start. Open with my peers and the church about my struggles. So what if they would’ve thought I was crazy?!? We are ALL a little crazy. And if I had been more honest from the beginning about my mental health maybe it never would’ve escalated into more struggles later on down the road.
Over the years I’ve lost multiple friends, classmates, and coworkers to mental illness. They’re a lot more deadly than we realize.
We, as a society, have been keeping mum about mental illness, therapy, and the like for far too long. We’ve made some strides as far as bringing more awareness to the issue, but we still have leaps and bounds to go.
What I want people to understand about mental illness is this: just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Fighting an invisible battle can be so exhausting. Especially when others don’t see how hard you’re working to be where you are.
Depression is not an act.
Anxiety is not all in your head.
Bipolar disorders are not phases.
Suicide is not a cowards escape.
Self-harm is not a cry for attention.
PTSD is not just something you can snap out of.
IT. IS. A. DISORDER. NOT. A. DECISION.
If you have never battled with a mental illness, instead of acting/assuming you know everything… PLEASE just try ASKING about our illnesses. Stop stigmatizing mental disorders. Stop acting like seeing a therapist is tabu, because it’s NOT. But most importantly, have some compassion and at least try to understand.
For those of you battling an invisible battle, know this: seeking help is NOT the opposite of faith. You can believe in the healing power of God while also doing what is necessary to renew the thought patterns that have been shaped by human society. NEVER let ANYONE shame you out of getting the help you need.
If you’re struggling to accept and come to terms with your diagnosis, let me remind you: there is so much more to you than your illness. It’s NOT your identity. It’s not the only story that you have and it is not the maker of your future. A single chapter of your story does not define the whole book. Remember, God’s hand is STILL writing your story. God is still holding the pen to what He’s doing in your life and this is not the final chapter. If anything, you are in the PERFECT position to have an impact, raise awareness, and show empathy, compassion and understanding for those who have and will face the same trials and walk in the same shoes. It now becomes another tool in your tool belt because you’ve been there. You ARE there. But it’s not where you’ll end up. I promise you.
Let’s #breakthestigma together! If you are battling/have battled a mental illness and you’re willing to share your story, I strongly encourage you to share it on Facebook/Instagram (whatever social media platform you use) and include the hashtag #breakthestigma !
IMPORTANT!!!: Starting with this blog post, I am going to be leaving my cell phone number at the end of each of my entries. If you are struggling, know someone who is struggling, or even if you just wanna gossip about The Bachelor/Bachelorette (I know, I’m basic lol) PLEASE don’t hesitate to reach out! I would love to get to know you and your story. I’ll offer you any encouragement/advice I can, share some Biblical truths with you, pray over you, or just debate with you over who’ll be the next Bachelor (I hope it’s gonna be Tyler C.!!). 😉
Embrace your blessings and make today worth remembering!
P.S. I just want to make it clear that when I refer to my anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds as “crazy pills”, I do NOT mean any offense by it and I’m not calling ANYONE who takes meds for their mental illness “crazy”. I just like to refer to these medications of mine in a sarcastic and joking manor as a way to make light out of a seemingly dark situation. I have TONS of respect for anyone and everyone who is doing whatever is necessary for both their mental and physical health! Y’all are rockstars!! 🙂