The stigma surrounding mental health is such an enormous barrier in terms of healing. So many people are afraid to speak about their struggles. We don’t want to be seen as weak. We don’t want to be considered ill or broken, unstable or dangerous. We worry it will effect friendships and professional lives. We worry and we hide.
But there are so many of us you guys! Honestly, I don’t know of a human being that does not combat demons, whether or not they are diagnosed with a mental illness. I mean, think about all of the people running around who are tormented and stay silent, never receive a diagnosis, never get treatment or support of any kind. That is heartbreaking to me.
Why those who are challenged in a mental/emotional way get treated differently than those challenged by a physical illness? Because we can’t “see it”, and we only believe what we can see? We have all seen someone with a mental illness that is noticeable in an outward manner. Maybe a homeless, wandering, talking to imaginary people, possibly acting out aggressively. Those people we know and believe are ill because we can see it. It more than likely makes us uncomfortable, and we probably avoid them.
Now, I’ve never really been one to care too much about what other people think of me. It’s a double edged sword of course, but it does allow me to be honest and not beat around the bush. And yet, as I look back at my child self, I can recognize now, how at a very early age I learned to hide part of myself from the public at large, and build walls to protect myself from being found out and consequently hurt.
I started noticeably struggling with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old. Without getting into all the medical and scientific “stuff” there are several types of OCD, one being that which runs in families, is passed down genetically. This type usually starts rearing its head in childhood versus adolescence. I come from a long line of superstitious triple checkers. Cousins that couldn’t pass buy certain bushes without touching them and uncles who made funny twitches with their mouth before they took a drink, because they just had to. My mom had obsessions and compulsions as a child, and knew immediately what was happening when she noticed my first compulsion, which was feeling for my heartbeat to make sure it was still beating. Poor Mom, she knew the terror I felt inside. She tried to help, but there wasn’t a lot of information on OCD 35 years ago. We all just thought we had a quirky family.