Sunday, June 12, 2016

Mental Illness Awareness Monday | Lizzie @ Big Books and Grande Lattes

If you stopped by my blog for my Change Places With Me: Harper Summer 2016 Tour, you would know that I mentioned the idea of starting a series of mental illness related blog posts on my blog.

This is for a variety of reasons. I am hoping that this series will open up mental illness for discussion, help to reverse the stigma against mental illness, and remind everyone that you are not alone, no matter what you are going through.

This specific discussion comes from Lizzie at Big Books and Grande Lattes. I owe her a huge thank you for writing a post for this series and opening up the discussion on mental health once more. 

I know that in recent years it has become more acceptable to talk about mental illness.

There are days dedicated to mental health and mental illness awareness, therapy has become more popular, and celebrities have shared their stories, but is it REALLY more acceptable to talk about? 

Personally, I think not. Yes, things have changed. There isn’t as much of a stigma when it comes to mental illness, but that doesn’t mean that it has become easier to talk about when it comes to sharing personal experiences. The moment to tell someone that you’ve suffered from an eating disorder, take Prozac everyday, or go to therapy each week, people look at you differently. This is why I so rarely discuss my experience with mental illness. 

Throughout my life, I’ve dealt with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. Along with those I’ve dealt with body image issues. Things started when I was in elementary school, and gradually got worse when I was in middle school. After the death of my grandfather and having my best friend drop me all of a sudden in hopes of being “popular,” I was feeling really sad and could no longer feel happy. I went to a therapist, but she didn’t think anything was wrong, even though I didn’t feel right. Discouraged, I decided to quit seeing her and thought that I could make myself feel better. But I couldn’t. 

During my junior year of high school, I was at my lowest point. I quit doing homework and no longer loved dance, something I had done for over 10 years. After a really emotional World Mythology class, I broke down in tears and told my teacher I had been planning on killing myself. One appointment with the school counselor and one awkward car ride with my mom, I was told by a Psych ER that I was just dealing with teenage angst. However, my mom took me to a couple different therapists to find one I could talk to, and after finding a therapist I liked, and who I then continued to see for about 3 years, I was put on Prozac. 

I had to open up about my lack of motivation and plans of suicide. I also had to admit that I was hardly eating and had become obsessed with my figure and trying to lose weight, despite already being very underweight. This was caused by dance, where my teachers and other dancers would always comment about how small I was, and that was the only time I received positive attention. In therapy, I had to learn to change my perception of my body and create a positive environment for myself at dance. I was starting to feel better. While I was getting better in therapy, everything else was unbearably painful. I couldn’t talk about how I was feeling with anyone. My mom kept asking me what she did wrong and how she screwed up being a mother, my dad was hardly around, my sister was too young to understand, and my friends became uncomfortable when I would bring it up. No one knew how to react. No one knows how to react. That’s why I never bring it up. 

While I no longer take antidepressants, become a wreck at the thought of leaving the house, and starve myself, I know that people's perception of me will change if I tell them about what I dealt with for years. I know that they’ll see me as a girl who’s had issues, who’s needed to take medication for an illness that no one can see. An illness that many people don’t believe is real or think that can be healed by thinking positively. People always feel the need to see symptoms of an illness to prove it’s real, but how do you prove an illness that’s internal and that only you can feel? With this focus on external symptoms, you feel like your mental health is invalid. You feel guilty because there are people with physical illnesses, and yours is internal. It’s become a competition of “Who Suffers More?” If you have a mental illness, you’re always going to lose the competition because your pain isn’t visible. So what’s better: suffer in silence or feel like your internal illness is invalid?

Lizzie, thank you so much for writing this incredible post. I know it might not be *truly* acceptable to talk about yet, but your post and words are helping to change that atmosphere for the better.

Please utilize the comment section below! You can share words of support and encouragement, discuss this specific post as well as other aspects of mental illness. Remember that this blog is a safe space and absolutely no hate will be tolerated, so please read your comments carefully before posting!

As always, be sure to check out Lizzie on Big Books and Grande Lattes, or @LizzieSarcastic on Twitter!


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