Globally, 350 million people suffer from depression. 18% of the population in the United States suffers from anxiety. 2.2 million people have OCD, and 7.7 million people have Post Traumatic Stress. 23.5 million Americans suffer from addiction to alcohol or drugs. 8 million people in the United States have some form of eating disorder. One million people commit suicide each year.
If you're in some sort of pain right now, you're not alone.
These numbers are not small. So why is there such a stigma attached to mental illness?
I've suffered from depression and anxiety my entire life. In the past I definitely had an unhealthy relationship to both food and alcohol. Unfortunately, I have an uncle who committed suicide. My guess is my experience isn't a rare one. But I've struggled to keep these facts a secret my entire life.
Many of my best friends don't know about my struggles. It was embarrassing for me the first time I told my parents that I needed therapy. I remember feeling weak. When I'm in relationships, I have no idea how to tell my partner that I don't drink anymore, or that sometimes I'll slip into sadness for weeks at a time, and it has nothing to do with them.
We live in a world where we are embarrassed to talk about our feelings, even though our feelings are the exact thing that make us human. Vulnerability is how we connect to one another. As an old saying goes, "what comes from the heart, enters the heart." However, we're so socialized to hold our emotions in, and seem "strong" all the time, that we deny who we truly are.
What a sad life-- hiding who we are from others, because our world tells us that our feelings make us weak or unloveable.
If anything, it's the exact opposite. Showing who you are, being completely emotionally naked- is a radical act of courage that most people never have the balls (excuse my language) to do-- and there's nothing more attractive than that. Being completely and unapologetically yourself, wounds and all, is the highest act of self love you can do for yourself.
The stigma around mental illness is often due to lack of awareness. We think mentally ill and immediately envision person in the park surrounded by pigeons talking to themselves. Maybe-- and let's have compassion for that person. Why wouldn't we?
But it could also be your next door neighbor, your best friend, your postman, your teacher, your doctor, your mom, that actor you admire, or your boss. It is the fully functional person in society, with the glowing, helpful personality, who has been through trauma, and sometimes really struggles, and needs your compassion and understanding.
This person isn't a meme, or a joke, or a quiz, or someone to be feared or not taken seriously: it's a human being who sometimes goes through very serious things, and then gets through them, through the entirely of their life, because they are strong and courageous.
Is that something to be feared, or applauded? Many people who you most likely admire suffer from various forms of mental illness too.
Miley Cyrus on her depression
Angelina Jolie, who has a history of both drug use and cutting
If you're suffering from anxiety, depression, or some other form of mental illness, there is help for you. Talk to your doctor about options. The number for the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).