Yesterday was one of those days where I wanted to go home, curl up in a ball, and cry. Or bury myself in the covers, never to resurface again. Or get drunk until I black out and forget everything. Or all of the above.
It was one of those days that started off bad and got progressively worse. It was one of those days where I sat at my desk trying not to cry because I was so frustrated with life. It was one of those days where I called my mom in the middle of the day for a pep talk because I was slowly falling apart.
It was one of those days where my mental illness reared its ugly head. It was one of those days where my usual bubbly demeanor breaks and the mental illness simmering under the surface peaks through.
I often hear people say that someone doesn’t “look like they have a mental illness”. My question is always, “well what does mental illness look like?”. Mental illness doesn’t look or sound like one particular person or thing. It’s not the person who “looks” crazy. It’s not the person walking down the street talking to themselves. Mental illness is not one particular race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class or gender.
Mental illness could look like the coworker you sit next to everyday who seems like she has it all together but cries herself to sleep every night. It could look like the corporate VP with the perfect family who finds it difficult to find energy to even get out of bed on the weekend because of his depression. It could look like the devout christian woman who goes to church every Sunday, prays, and reads her bible but still can’t calm her anxious thoughts.
This week, mental illness looked like me: a beautiful, educated, gifted young black woman from a stable childhood with a private school education and a great support system who got a little overwhelmed with life…but thankfully has the skills and support to overcome.
But due to the stigma of “what mental illness looks like” or “should look like”, some people don’t have access to the same resources or skills. This is why I am passionate about sharing my story so others can see what mental illness truly looks like and helping to break the stigma that keeps people from seeking help when they need it. I want everyone to understand mental illness and be able to recognize the signs so that anyone suffering from a mental illness can get the help they need.
If we all stop hiding and begin to share our stories of our struggles with mental health, together, we can #breakthestigma.