Bringing Mental Illnesses into the Light

October 4, 2023

Bringing Mental Illnesses into the Light

Guest Blog by CA Alliance and Catalyst Center Staff Member, Cate Sievers

Mental illnesses have been so hyper normalized as a part of our every day dialogue that we minimize the negative impact that these disorders have on thousands of lives. People casually and flippantly throw out phrases like “I can’t leave my room dirty because of my OCD”, “I’m so depressed”, “This is giving me PTSD”, “This gave me a panic attack” without a real understanding of what these mental illnesses really are or the varying degrees in which they can present. 

The actual disorders themselves become so taboo because we only allow them to ever be serious enough to talk about or do anything about in extreme cases. Once “smaller” symptoms are shown, you don’t notice it, simply because you feel like everyone else MUST be going through the same thing. This significantly trivializes someone's mental health experience, and spreads the false notion that they should be able to overcome it on their own. More harmfully though, it makes people think that living with the untreated and full impact of mental illnesses is the life that they should be living. It normalizes debilitating levels of stress, sleepless nights, overwhelming anxiety, and so many more symptoms that negatively impact people's day to day lives, when the reality is that this is not how life is supposed to be. 

This is why shining a spotlight on mental illness awareness week is ever so important. Not only does spreading awareness help you, but it helps others too. To the thousands suffering in silence, it lets them know that they are not alone, and they deserve to get help too. It is a step towards freeing us all from the stigma around mental health and illness, and makes EVERYONE better because of it. How we feel is a part of us all, and being willing to be vulnerable by sharing that part of you is an incredible strength. And being able to tend to yourself accordingly because of that is an incredible kindness. 

For me, finally acknowledging my generalized anxiety disorder not only changed my life, but saved my life. I stopped being okay with the anxiety induced back pain that would make it nearly impossible for me to stand up straight; or the intense jaw pain that would inhibit my eating,  that was caused by clenching my jaw in my sleep and grinding my teeth as a reaction to stress. I stopped dismissing the horrible pain in my chest that would arise when I was anxious, the overcoming spells of dizziness or the nausea that would shoot through my body. I refused to continue letting my anxiety attacks hold me back from really living. 

When I finally sought ways to take care of myself through personal growth opportunities, therapy, psychotropic medications, and other medical specialists, I got a step closer to feeling like myself again. That pain coursing through my whole body and constantly weighing me down, finally felt lighter. My life was that much more back in my hands. And by no means am I saying that it was easy. That journey in itself was a long, LONG fight. And while I still live and deal with my anxiety disorder and its side effects each and every day, now I know that there is light on the other side of the tunnel. Now that I know that working on myself was more than worth it. 

Whether you are directly or indirectly affected by mental illness, continue to be brave, to be vulnerable. You deserve any and every resource that's out there, just make sure you go looking for them. 

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