Two phenomenal people dead by suicide in just a week. For crying out loud there shouldn’t be a stigma on mental health issues! Again, mental health matters! Mental health is largely a part of our “health”.

When I was younger, I was introduced to a phase; “joie de vivre” which meant keen or buoyant enjoyment of life. My Physical Education and Health teachers said it was the real measure of health. Hence, being healthy from within, in our mind holds the greatest key for our body to be sound. Why then, don’t we talk about mental health issues?

When I submitted myself to a friend who is a Psychiatrist a couple of years ago, I was devastated. I could no longer hold on as everyone wanted me. My anxiety was high. My sadness was deep. My panic was relentless within. My coping was not doing me good. I was drowning and I am being told things that should not be told to people going through mental health issues. I came to ask for prescriptions.

I have openly spoken about my ordeal, I did not want to hide it but I did not openly talk about it in this blog either. Perhaps, an iota of the stigma sting me too. But there shouldn’t be a stigma on mental health issues. They are real.

I have always been perceived strong in character even as a child. I was never loud and whatever plagues me never casts a shadow on anyone I would not open up to. I was often my friend’s and family’s fortress of strength. I was as they would say, emotionally sound. As years went by, I established a career in helping individuals and families. And to many people, I had things going well. Perhaps, it was the same image that made them say I could never go through depression or that I was not depressed. For the same reasons, they advised me to just shape-up. And I tried to.

Having earned a degree in Psychology, I have a good number of people knowledgeable about mental health issues. Most of them, advised the same “not to be told” stuff. I reached out but no one seemed to take it seriously. Again, as I will never be that woman to go through it. I denied it for myself too. I pretended to be happy, especially for my daughter. But I was not progressing. Depression instead progressed in me.

My doctor friend was my last straw. She diagnosed me as Bi-polar Type 2. My other doctor friends have said it was probably anxiety disorder. But whichever case, I felt I needed help…that help no one felt necessary. It was unnecessary because they did not want to see I was “sick”. I was given medications. I took it. After a while opted out. I wanted to try alternative options to which my doctor friend respected. I am grateful.

But you know what was ironically strange? My friend told me not to disclose I was going through medications. Or to openly say I have Bipolar disorder. Of course, whoever I was with had to know in order to closely monitor me. But I was advised not to openly say it. I did the contrary. I spoke about it. I spoke about my medication and my voluntary choice to halt medication. I strongly believed there should not be a stigma to it. People with heart disease are not advised to not disclose their illness, what big difference is there? Yes, you’re right. The difference is stigma.

Through it all, I found my true circle, my tribe, and my soul-family. There are people willing to listen, willing to accept, willing to embrace the chaos…the beauty and the madness. There are still those that will judge; those that will label; those that will shove us away. These people still affect us. It is not an easy struggle.

Mental illness does not discriminate. This recent suicide by Bourdain and that of Kate Spade should show us all that mental illness knows no boundaries, no divisions, and no limits. They say that by 2020, depression will be the greatest epidemic worldwide. If you don’t suffer, one in four will; so you know someone who has, is and will suffer. Let us not leave them alone to suffer. If you have not the skill to be emphatic towards us, have not worn our shoes, have not felt the vagueness and numbness that mental illness is; please do not judge. Each is to his own. Mental Health issues are real. It can be managed. There are ways and alternatives as with other health issues. But first, let it not be a taboo. There shouldn’t be a stigma on this.

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