Trying to break the stigma
There's an ever-growing stigma in the world, about people with mental health issues. Even I, someone who deals with some of these issues, have been known to make assumptions. But as I've grown a little older, I've realized how these assumptions can hurt, and hurt deeply.
As a child I was sheltered. My home was extremely dysfunctional, but I knew only that, therefore believed such is life. I was extremely naive to the world, believing everything I heard or read because there was nobody there to give me the real answers. I had a feeling even at a young age that things weren't right with the world. When I would ask questions, I was denied any real answers. I was told, "I don't know", or "Because I said so". Thank God I had the aptitude to want more in life, so I began to read, read, read. Books alone couldn't save me from the cruel, adult world I would soon face, but they gave me the education I needed to be aware of the evils in this world.
School, for me, was like a cruel joke that someone was playing on me. Seeing as my family was blind to my emotional problems, I suffered greatly throughout my junior high and high school years. I had no clue who I was. I didn't fit in with anybody, but I stuck to the "stoners" because they accepted me. I watched my peers doing hard drugs right in front of me. They'd offer things to me and I turned every single offer down. That wasn't me. I spent most of my high school years drinking and partying (mostly in towns away from my own). It was the only way for me to socialize comfortably. I felt liked, I felt attractive, and people even laughed at my jokes. It was a sort of lackadaisical feeling which I enjoyed much more than loneliness and sadness.
As I entered adulthood and married at age 20, I was flung into the outside world like a tadpole in a pool of sharks. There were so many things that happened in my 20's, that I'd never thought existed in the world. I didn't realize that you're not supposed to trust every person that you come in contact with. I didn't realize that I was lovable. I didn't realize that I was a truly good person. There were many things that made me naive and vulnerable in the real world. Not only that, I married a man who abused me. Granted, my husband has taught a lot about the realities of life, he's also negated my emotions and feelings about the world itself. Just like in my childhood. Only I didn't see it early enough.
Even through the abuse of my husband, I prevailed in educating myself. I ignored my husbands ignorance, and went to counseling to try to heal myself. He only "allowed" me a few counseling sessions, but I predicted that, so I made the utmost of every session I attended. This is what I've been diagnosed with over the last 12 years:
Depression--I've been through many bouts of depression. I would be extremely sad and felt hopeless for days or months at a time. I wouldn't do enough housework, I wouldn't make dinner, I wouldn't do much of anything at all. I just felt like I was swimming in a sea of darkness.
Anxiety--I suffered several anxiety attacks before I knew what was happening to me. At times, I thought I was having a heart attack. I would worry so deeply about certain things, that I had chest pains and I actually thought I was having a heart attack. I wouldn't be able to take a deep breath to save my life, it felt like I was being stabbed in the lung with a carving knife each time I tried to breathe. I would shake, I would sweat, and nausea would set in. It was such a hopeless, sickening feeling. My husband would tell me to stop being such a whiner.
I was actually diagnosed with a few different types of anxiety; generalized anxiety, situational anxiety, and panic attacks caused by anxiety.
My anxiety consists of vile, graphic images in my mind. It grew worse after I had children, of course mothers worry about many things, so this added to the pain. I would imagine my children being ran over by a car. And not only would I see them being ran over by a car, I would watch it happen, I would "see" the car ram into their little bodies, imagine their little bones breaking, their pain, and their sadness. I would see the blood fly from their mouths, them flying through the air, then ultimately hitting the ground, dead. I could see the gashes on their bodies, the smears of dirt on their tiny baby faces, and their shoes still planted perfectly and firmly on the ground where the car had stopped.
One other vision that I remember vividly seeing was a time when there was a gas truck working on our neighbors home. Every second that that truck was outside, I imagined my kids being outside playing, and the gas men make a mistake.....everything on the block would explode into pieces. Including myself. I would picture the homes and bodies of everyone around us, disintegrating into chunks of burning wood, metal, fat and flesh.. I would think of all of the families that would be eternally devastated about the loss of their family members in our neighborhood. I could feel the true pain, if only for a second, of losing them. This at times, was a daily occurence.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stess Disorder)--As the name describes, this affects you after a traumatic event in your life. Many war veterans suffer with this and have flashbacks that in turn, cause depression and anxiety symptoms as well. Due to a few life events of my own that were life-altering, this is probably the most significant of my troubles. I was sexually abused and had to watch my sister be abused as well, watched my mother get beat unconcious by her husband, watched this same husband tromp down the hallway of our house with a rifle and he threw my kittens out the back door into the air and shot them, my mother was attacked and choked by an intruder that intended to rape her, when I was 8 years old in the bed next to her. I've also been physically abused by my husband. He has choked me several times, raped me, dragged me around the house by my hair, and held a 15 inch blade knife above my head and told me he would kill me, in front of our small children.
Go figure, I haven't had a good nights sleep since I was probably 5 years old. As writers, most of you can understand that feeling. Not only are you tired, but it affects everything else that you do, or try to do. Lack of sleep, or lack of a deep sleep can definitely rattle your brain and your thoughts. It can eventually affect your physical health as well. I'm not in the best of health for being a 33 year old.
ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)--The name says it all here. As I looked back, after receiving this diagnoses, it explained so much. I couldn't sit in a classroom and listen to a teacher lecture for an hour, and I certainly couldn't read more than half a page of social studies without losing my thought process altogether. My concentration would break after just a few words or phrases. I always knew myself though. I knew that I was intelligent. I knew I had much more than potential, but had no answers. My peers often looked at me as an underachiever. It was heart-wrenching. I wanted to learn, I wanted to be smart, I wanted to be in sports (mom wouldn't put me in anything), and I definitely wanted to fit in somewhere.
Not only does ADD affect my way of learning, but some of the side affects are anxiety and depression. This menagerie of illnesses made me want to hide from the world. Which leads me to my last diagnoses......
Social Phobia--I believe, in part, that all of the above illnesses, contribute to the social phobia. I love people, I love having friends, but I have extreme anxiety in crowds of people or even just being around people that are strangers to me. I'm constantly worried about what everyone is thinking about me. So much so that it cripples me and leads me to avoid social activities altogether. For instance, my children are in extra-carricular activities, but I do everything I can to avoid going to them. Not because I don't want to be with my children and support them, but because my fear of all of the other parents judging me takes over. Now I'm not saying that I don't go to my children's sport events, because that's the opposite of the truth. In fact I'm the only one that's taken my son to every single wrestling practice he's had. He's been in wrestling since Kindergarten and he's in 4th grade now. I would make myself go to his practices. I would tell myself to ignore everyone else, because my son was more important. Where the social phobia/anxiety comes in is before I have to go to these events. I spend up to an entire week being scared and anxious about being around the crowd of people.
I also believe that my husbands abuse has contributed to this as well. He has never "allowed" me to have friends, in fact he even convinced me that my own family didn't love me, so for a long time I didn't have one person, outside of my crazy husband, that I could turn to. For anything! He would tell me that I acted like a dork around other people and that I embarrassed him. If he would have HIS friends over, he didn't allow me to talk to them. If I began a conversation with someone else, he would blatantly interrupt me and take his friend elsewhere, to another room or outside.
He would also tell me that I was crazy all of the time. Because I expected him to treat me with respect, I was crazy and clingy. He would tell me that because my family was full of losers, that I would be one too, without him.
But I'm grown now. I know better. I believe that I do suffer with these issues, but I want to try to clear the stigma that I'm "crazy". I'm almost the complete opposite of crazy. I'm rational, thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent, loving, and many other great things. I'm far from crazy, but how does a person like me hide from the stigma of being crazy, while being completely honest about my illnesses. I've had experiences since my diagnoses where I've tried to explain my issues to people and they either look at me like a nut-job or like I'm full of shit and just need an excuse to be lazy and not work for a living. I hate these assumptions, they break me down even further.
I hope to be ending my marriage soon, so I believe that alone will change me dramatically. The anxiety and depression run in both sides of my family so I will forever deal with those things, but I've learned how to deal with them, without medication. So I know that I can lead a fairly normal life in the future, but I want to help others with this hub, by showing you that these "illnesses" do not make a person bad or crazy. They've suffered deeply having these problems and we should show them love. They need it and deserve it. Trust me when I tell you that if you know someone that suffers like I do (as millions of people do) and you give them the time of day, a shoulder to cry on, a kind word or a smile, you can help change their lives. Not only that, you may give them the courage to begin helping themselves.
Thanks to so many supportive people that I've met online in the last 5 years, I've been able to turn my life around in so many ways.Their support, honesty, and gentleness have helped to heal my wounds.
So please, Pay It Forward:)