August 17, 2015

Mental Health & Self-Empowerment.

Kiran Foster/Flickr

Do you ever find yourself throwing away countless bottles of medications that simply never worked for you?

Yes? Well, you’re not alone.

There is nothing easy about working our way through the mental health system, and it seems to be getting more complex.

If you have anxiety, why do your doctors keep prescribing you pills for depression? If you have ADD then why do they keep prescribing you pills for anxiety?

In modern day society, being mentally ill is not only a chore, but comes with a sense of shame. We keep going to different doctors, seeing different therapists, and gaining little or no access to alternate solutions. The battle we face is real, but so very hard to make others understand.

As human beings, we’re already complex, but to be a human with a diagnosis is the greatest struggle.

Guess what? you’re not alone—below I will share my explorations of the many regions of our shared battles with mental health:

1. It’s not your fault.

People will tell you that you “choose” to go through the personal battles that you face, and that you’re merely your own worst enemy. Those people are wrong, and they have absolutely no idea what it’s like to encounter personal warfare with their thoughts on a regular basis. The struggle for survival is real, and where someone sees a smile in us, it’s because we fought long and hard to be able to do so.

2. The phrase “you are not your illness” is the most factual phrase that you will ever hear.

Live it, love it, own it.

Once you come to terms will your mental illness, you can than alter it in order to remove the negative stigma that the media and society places on it. Notice how many mainstream media sources emphasize that someone was mentally unstable when they committed horrific acts. Whatever the case made be, it makes it easier for people to cringe at anyone else suffering through depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or any other ailment that can alter our state of being drastically.

By accepting our disorder and putting fourth the effort in being the best person that we can be, we’re breaking stereotypes, and proving naysayers wrong. You are not a victim of your mind, you are not a monster, you do not need to apologize for your birth right.

3. Finding proper treatment is almost impossible.

There is no magic pill that will save us, but if we have a chemical imbalance then we need to be okay with synthetics. No matter what our personal belief systems are, sometimes the only solution is medication, but first and foremost, do what’s right for you.

We shouldn’t close out any option for increasing our well-being because our friends tell us that pills are for junkies. Bless their hearts, they love us, but they’re not us. If you’ve been in and out of the “system” for more than a few years, then you’ve already tried a plethora of medications. They’re oftentimes brutal at first, and some of us are more prone to side effects than others.

Like everything in life, finding a balance takes time. Allow yourself patience. After all, this is our future, our relationships, our sense of self worth and our sanity that we are dealing with.

4. Get creative.

Talent is not an issue here; whether you’re a Van Gogh or a master of stick figures is irrelevant. How many times have you attempted to describe to others what you’re going through, only to hit a giant wall of misunderstanding? Just as we want others to accept what we’re going through, we need to accept that they probably never will.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be alone. Familiarize yourself with writing poetry, painting or picking up an instrument. You can still express how you feel, and it’s crucial to let the pain out. More often than not, our thoughts feel like they’re consuming our brain, and we need to let them go.

5. Discrimination is unavoidable.

Have you ever dated someone that used your mental health against you at the drop of a dime? if you have, it’s discrimination. Have you ever shared your diagnosis with an employer, and then been fired shortly after for no apparent reason? Yes? Well, it’s discrimination.

There are people out there who live for establishing reasons to judge us, and put us into boxes. Don’t let them bring you down; don’t let them make you feel that you don’t deserve the best. To be honest is to invoke fear, and in many cases, the ones who make us feel the worst never had the courage to seek help for their own personal truths.

Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you may be getting treated unfairly, write down exactly how things are playing out, immediately. Look back on it when you’re in a calmer space. Were their words or actions justified? if not, you have every means to take legal action, or to ditch the person that willfully put you in an uncomfortable spot.

6. Educate your loved ones on what exactly you’re going through, but first, educate yourself.

Take the time to research your diagnosis through viable sources—and I don’t mean self-proclaimed medical sites. To understand your struggle is to control it. Once you feel as though you’ve come to terms with your situation, don’t be scared to open up about it.

We deserve a happy and healthy life, just as much as anyone else—including romance. Feel free to take your time, because if someone has invested interest in you, than they’ve already invested interest in your psychology. If you’re someone who’s prone to episodes, then it needs to be discussed after a bond has already been formed, but hopefully before an episode occurs. Don’t think for one minute that finding and establishing love isn’t harder, for some of us, then love alone already is. Think of your heart and your brain as though they were the sky—sometimes things are sunny; sometimes they are stormy and fierce. Keep the balance,

If someone begins to “trigger” an episode in you, step away from the situation. Again, write it down, and when you’re calm, go back to it. Were they wrong? or were they unaware that maybe you have PTSD? Open communication is vital in any successful relationship, but especially so for us.

7. There is no shame in receiving SSI and/or disability.

Oftentimes people correlate being disabled with physically noticeable traits. We know this is not always the case. The truth that often gets overlooked is that we’ve tried; we’ve worked countless jobs, we’ve pretended like we can function at the levels of those without a diagnosis and we’ve battered ourselves.

Though it is entirely possible to lead a formidable lifestyle while having any number of disorders, some of us simply can’t. This doesn’t make you any less deserving of survival. Ignore the people that tell you that you shouldn’t be on SSI because you look “normal.” Whether you’re getting government help, or you can successfully work a nine to five, only take on as much as you can handle. Please don’t let yourself break because others don’t know you as well as they’d like to believe.

Listed above are some of the most common battles that we face, and some of the more common occurrences.

Unfortunately, we live in a shoddy time for the economy, and the mental health system is a confusing place. Some of us can’t wait for months before we get to see a doctor, or talk to a therapist, and sometimes it feels like we never receive the treatment that we deserve.

You’re also taking the time to try and understand what exactly it is that you’re going through. We are not statistics; we are not instant criminals; we are not “disturbed” and we are not a burden to the system.

Accept these things; accept yourself, and discover true self-empowerment.

Most importantly, keep yourself grounded while waiting for what feels like an eternity to get proper care.



The Stigma Around Mental Illness is Hurting All of Us.


Author: Michelle Navarrete

Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Kiran Foster/Flickr

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Michelle Navarrete