“Recovery Isn’t A Light Switch”

Mental health has always been important to me. In a way my whole life has kind of revolved around mental health: the people in my life who struggle day to day, the people who have taken it out on others, the people who stigmatize it, the people who judged me for it.

And I guess that’s why I’m so passionate about it, because it’s always been such an important thing in my life and I believe it’s equally as important in the lives of everyone else as well, though they may not realize it. We all struggle with it, and that’s why I want to raise awareness for it. As mentioned previously, my life has revolved around mental health, and I myself have struggled with it.

Since the age of 14 I’ve experienced the effects that depression, anxiety, and codependency have on a person. I used to hate having any mental illnesses at all, and often despised myself for struggling like I do, until I realized that I wasn’t alone at all. There’s so many people out there who struggle who aren’t as blessed as I was to have someone be there to help them through it. I also soon realized that I had a choice to make.

Sure, you can’t control mental illnesses and the toll they take on your health, but what you can control is your mindset about it. I had a choice. I could let it define me and let it control who I was, how I saw myself, or how I would interact with others. Or, I could pursue recovery, a healthier lifestyle, hope for the future, and the desire to help people like me.

Finally I chose the latter, and I can say with 100% certainty that that’s when I started to get better.  Note: “started”. It doesn’t happen overnight, and as one of my greatest friends says, “recovery isn’t a light switch.” You can’t just decide to get better and then your health immediately improves. It’s a long tedious process that is eventually very rewarding. I’m still recovering, honestly just started.

Mental health and mental illnesses are often ignored, stigmatized, and many people look down upon any mention of it. Many people tend to either run from or attack things they don’t understand: basic fight or flight instinct. I believe that’s what’s happened with the topics of mental health and illness. Even those of us who struggle with it ourselves hate the idea of talking about it or addressing it— as I did for so long.

Just because we suffer with it first hand doesn’t always mean we understand it. But the sooner we tackle the stigma surrounding mental health and wellness, the closer all of us are to a happier, healthier, better version of ourselves. 

All this explained, I’ll finally get to my point here. Although the mental health community has already done wonders, when it comes to helping people understand it, I want to do my part too. Not one person has the exact same experiences as another person; and there will never be too many nice people in the world. That’s why I want to encourage as many people as I can to come together and break down the stigma.

There are so many lives that are going unseen, unnoticed, and unheard because of the judgement that we ourselves have placed on them. Lives are being lost every day because their mental health was “too awkward” to talk about or address. Many are falling through the cracks of society and are scrutinized and judged because they’re “weird”, “different”, or “defective”— and not a lot of people are doing anything to stop it.

Not many understand, or even try to understand, how valuable a human life is— no matter how much they struggle and need to be helped. Everybody has an equal potential for greatness, and with a population of 7 billion (that’s rapidly increasing), the world needs as many people ready and willing for change as possible. Awareness for mental illnesses needs to increase and we shouldn’t sit by and let it control us and others who are struggling. 

Hopefully you will be inspired to do what you can to help people against the stigma as well. If you need someone and are struggling, the best reward you can ever give yourself is continuing to survive and stay strong despite how the world is crashing down around you. To be able to say “I’ve made it through this much” when you thought you never would is one of the greatest feelings.

And being able to give hope to others through pain that you’ve experienced firsthand is an amazing accomplishment. Helping yourself by helping others (and vice versa) is a great way to do your part and make the world a better place. 

— Emma (@survivingthestigma),  Knoxville, Tennessee.

* This is a submitted post *  

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