When I told my father that I was struggling with depression and social anxiety, his reaction was to hand me a self-help book on how to meet new people. While I appreciated the gesture, a book of tips was not going to cure my mental health issues. When I told my mother, she stayed silent. I felt even more ashamed, like I had done something wrong. My aunt called me a week later to say that my depression was real and that she had gone through it herself. It was such a relief to have someone I trust understand and validate my mental health concerns.
Oftentimes, we are subtly taught that mental illness is a weakness in our character. But imagine a scenario where someone broke a leg. Certainly no one would ask him to run a marathon. He would seek medical help, give himself time to heal, and get back to his regular routine when his physical health was back on track. It works the same for a broken brain. You wouldn’t be able to function at 100 percent, and like someone with a broken leg, no one should expect you to. The same recovery process would ensue: you would seek medical help (talk to a mental health professional), give yourself time to recover, and get back into the swing of daily life when your mental health felt more manageable. It really should be that simple.
Unfortunately, people do not always view physical health and mental health in the same way, and it can be incredibly difficult to ask those you love for help because of that stigma. Even those with the best intentions may not give you the help you need, or they may not have the reaction that you are looking for. The first thing to recognize is that what you are experiencing is real, and your feelings are valid. Educate yourself about your own illness, so you can feel reassured about what you are experiencing and you can educate others when they don’t understand. Talk to someone you trust about your mental health concerns, and don’t stop reaching out until you find someone who will take your concerns seriously.