Insider View: A First person account of Dealing with Mental Illness & Stigma

“It’s a shot in the dark, but I’ll take it”

-Rather Be by Clean Bandit ft. Jesse Glynne.

Who do you go to when you are in trouble? It’s a fairly simple question. You go to the person you trust the most in your world. This itself makes the question subjective in nature. For me, that has been and always will be my parents. My story however didn’t pan out quite the way I expected it to. It was filled with misunderstandings.

Seeking help means two things: first, you have acknowledged that there is a problem. Second, you have accepted the fact that it is taking a toll on your daily functioning and is beyond your current coping capacity. You finally muster up the courage to confide in someone and tell them, “I need help. I’m not okay”, expecting a compassionate response. But the reaction you get may be very different!

I’d like to illustrate this by sharing my own experience. I used to have high levels of anxiety. Most of the times I was able to hide it well, and even when I spoke about it
it was brushed off with a “it’s okay, it’s going to go away” or “ get over it man”. I couldn’t explain how compulsive I felt to do irrational things or how angry I got for no reason at myself and at people around me. I felt like I had the burden of the world on my head, and it went round and round.. There was only negativity that came into my mind. It made me want to escape. So I slept a lot, I didn’t go to college, I was lethargic, I stopped doing all the things I loved like reading, cartooning, drawing, and shopping. I was happier off alone in my own world. My world was my sanctuary. I would have a bath, lie in bed and watch TV. This led to depression. How, why, when, and what? I wish I knew. I wish I could see myself as a third person. There were people who saw me though. My teachers who said I was lazy, my friends who saw I was gaining weight, my family who could not understand why someone who had always been full of laughter had suddenly become quiet, sullen and to a large extent-boring.

What people didn’t see or realize for that matter was that there was something else going on. I was broken. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know how to fix myself. I couldn’t push myself. I was in the simplest terms- beyond my own control. I was lost. My brokenness was inside me. It couldn’t be seen. My anxiety and depression were my two constant companions, and were haunting me but no one could see it. All they could see was the outcome. The behavioral change, the weight gain, the lethargy and the lazy outlook on life. No one questioned what could have brought this on, or what could have made me like this over a span of five years. This was because it was an ailment that no one could see. No one could understand it because for them it was not real. It was not physical. It was a sham put up by someone who didn’t want to do anything except get away and have an easy life.

The funny thing is that exactly a year ago, I had mentioned my difficulties to my mother. I had told her that I was suffering from a lot of anxiety and maybe we should consult somebody. I remember her exact words even today – “don’t you think you’re just a rich bored kid?”

Let me state for the record, that my mother is an amazing person. But she was upset because I was not being able to focus on my exams that would get me through for higher studies. On top of that I was not taking care of myself and this made her wonder what was going on in my mind. The problem was that my mother knew immediately that I needed help but she didn’t offer it. At the time she was worried about what my father would say and how my life would pan out if I was ‘labeled’ and under the influence of ‘drugs for mental people’.

There it was – the stigma, the rejection. My own parents didn’t want to believe I was not okay. They didn’t want help. This was their idea of protection. People who have all these disorders are called lunatics, are discriminated against, are treated differently, are not equal and may not even be accepted within the family unit. They are outcasts, loners. Judgment, shame or pity and sympathy accompany the mentally ill everywhere they go.

I had a nervous breakdown and ultimately there was no choice but to put me on medication and begin behavioral therapy. While I did find it difficult for myself, I also felt bad for my parents. They were having a hard time accepting all this. They were doing it to ensure I was okay. They were doing it because they loved me. They didn’t understand it but they were trying to. They didn’t hide me or tell me not to discuss it with people. They just kept quiet and listened to me. Listened to 22 years of frustration, anger, anxiety, compulsiveness, unhappiness and loneliness come out of me. Many people began to work with me – my parents, my doctors, some of my closest friends.
I’ve been in therapy and on medication for 6 months now. My world has changed to a large extent. However that’s because I wanted it to. The medicines make you calm and help you gain focus and clarity. That’s 40 percent of the work. 60 percent is your own initiative. How much will you put into yourself to get better? How much will you fight for yourself?

(The author recovered later from her intense anxiety, with her own efforts as well as with the support of her family and friends. She is thriving now and below is summing up of her current experiences).
Now, after a few months, I can do it on my own. I can pull myself up. I have immersed myself in my work and I enjoy it. I have found my own passions and my own interests outside people close to me. I want people to read this and be inspired to not get affected by the stigma. It is not going anywhere. However you, my friend, you’re going to go places! You’re going to revolutionize your life! So get up and get started!
By- Anonymously Lucky.

Important note for the reader:
The above is a first person account of a young person’s struggles with anxiety disorders and depression. People with the same diagnoses may experience somewhat different kinds of symptoms and this write-up is not meant for providing information about what symptoms to look for and make a diagnosis for self/others.
Its sole purpose is to increase the awareness that a) there is a person behind any illness and mental health conditions result in suffering which is as real as physical illness b) that suffering related to mental health conditions can be mitigated when the person is able to receive support by family and friends, reaches out for support from mental health professionals and works through his/her recovery process. Our gratitude to the writer- for sharing this, for the benefit of others!