Another guest post today: it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce Jessica Sankiewicz to the blog! She is the author of several YA/NA books and will be addressing the difficulty of coping while fighting the stigma surrounding mental health. Thanks very much to Jess for sharing – make sure to show her some support in the comments!
As someone with anxiety and depression, I want nothing more than to be able to talk freely about mental illness. However, in a society that views any sort of MI as either a weakness or a figment of the imagination, that makes openly discussing it difficult. In turn, those of us with a mental illness tend to hide them, suppressing our feelings and making things worse.
I like to believe that someday we’ll have a more open society, willing to talk about these things. But I know it will take some time for that to happen. In the meantime, there are other ways for us to cope with the stigma we face daily.
The most valuable way is to find people who share your struggles. I found my people online through social media. It’s been a blessing to have friends I can talk to openly about what I’m dealing with. They listen, they empathize, and most importantly, they encourage and support. Why? Because they genuinely get it. There may be different nuances they face that you don’t and vice versa, but certain elements are similar enough that there’s common ground you’re all walking on every day. I can’t tell you how many times their kind words have given me courage and hope.
You can also find some people in real life as well, although that can be a slightly tougher task. Close friends and family love you. And while some may not fully understand, others will do whatever they can to understand and be there for you. It’s common for mental illness to run in the family, so if you have a relative who has a MI, you may be able to talk to them and you can build each other up.
Over the last two years, I’ve been learning a lot about people and how they respond to me being open about my anxiety. Personally, I loathe the stigma and want to combat it in any way I can. So when I feel comfortable enough to bring it up, I do. Generally, nothing further gets said about what I just said, but they at least listen. I have had some people give me a strange look, and while that makes me feel like I shouldn’t have opened my mouth (thank you, anxiety), I’m still glad I did. And here’s why:
The more we talk about mental illness, the more it becomes normal to talk about mental illness.
It may feel awkward or uncomfortable when you get that sort of reaction, and that may make you refrain from opening up to others. But those moments are only temporary. You know that statistic about how 1 in 4 people have a mental illness? It’s true. When you discuss these topics with others, you’re going to be eventually talking to someone else with a mental illness. And one of two things will happen for them: either they’ll talk to you about what they’re feeling, or if they’re afraid they’ll start to realize it’s okay to talk and maybe someday they will open up.
Conversations about mental health should be as standard as physical health. Unfortunately, stigmas and incorrect opinions and viewpoints cloud the discussions. A lot of people with MI don’t feel safe enough to bring it up for fear of rejection or negative reaction. Those of us brave enough to make it a common subject in our conversations may be able to break down some of the stigma one person at a time. And our bravery can be passed on to others who see us stand tall, unafraid of what people may think.
It’s going to take some time, yes, but we can find ways of coping while we wait. Whether it’s online or in person, there are people who care and are willing and able to help you through anything. Stay strong and be brave. We’ll get through this together.
Jessica Sankiewicz is the author of IF ONLY WE and other clean stories. She writes both young adult and new adult contemporary romance, as well as poetry under the name Jessica L. Tate.
You can often find her either reading or marathon watching TV on DVD, her favorites being Castle and Veronica Mars. She frequently mismatches her clothes and giggles uncontrollably. She knows almost every Billy Joel song by heart. She collects books and toys, and she has an intense love of cats and lemurs. Jessica decided when she turned 27 that she would remain 27 forever. Currently in the midst of her quarter-life-crisis, she is still takin’ names and getting very close to reaching an epiphany.
Website: Jessica Sankiewicz/Tate
Facebook: Jessica Sankiewicz/Tate
Goodreads: Author Page
Amazon: Find Jessica’s books
Thanks so much to Jess for sharing! Make sure to check out her books and feel free to discuss methods of coping while fighting the stigma in the comment section.