One of the most difficult things about mental health issues is the stigma society attaches to it. As soon as you admit you aren’t “normal” people start to fall away from your life. Even though 10% of Americans take anti-depressants, we still feel the need to hide it from the majority of people in our lives.

Some of the stigma is how much our society values “normalcy,” even though no one can provide an exact definition of what normal life looks like. Facebook, Twitter, and countless other social media sites allow us to pretend our lives are picture perfect, further increasing the divide between actual lives and perceived normalcy.

I feel no compunctions sharing a kidney infection on Facebook, but have second thoughts about sharing my apathy. Each blog post I write is shared on Facebook; my last post almost didn’t get shared because it’s about my mental health. Even though I am fairly open about my past and mental health issues, I still hesitated because not everyone on my FB friends list is aware.

In my personal life, this was proven to me when I missed work due to mental health issues a few months ago. It resulted in the first anti-depressant prescription I actually filled, but I told everyone at work I had been given a prescription and was doing better. No other details provided. Yet when I got my kidney infection, I wasn’t worried about sharing what was wrong, or what I’d been prescribed. This circumspect approach to dealing with mental as opposed to physical ailments was a perfect reminder to me of how differently our society forces us to handle these affairs.

Several years ago I took a “Medical Anthropology” class in college. One of the points my professor brought up repeatedly was the stigma attached to mental health in the USA. In South America, depression is viewed as a community problem. If a healer diagnoses depression (a different term is used), the prescription involves an herbal tea prepared and served by another person, who is required to sit and chat for the 15-30 minutes it takes to drink the pot of tea.

Depression is very isolating. Symptoms of depression include reduced interest in all activities, so individuals tend to self isolate. In the USA, add in the pressure of not letting anyone see how depressed you are, and any attempts to socialize become overwhelming. Some say “fake it ’til you make it!” As someone who does a lot of faking it, I can put on a happy face, sound excited about personal projects, and seem like a completely normal person on social media and in person. In reality, I feel even more drained, depressed, and exhausted at the end of the day.

Some of the most helpful moments for me are when someone just listens, or sits with me, or talks to me without expecting me to pretend I’m OK and happy. Listening without judgment and really hearing someone are the most helpful things you can do.

Daily Prompt – Heard

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8 thoughts on “Listen and You Will Hear

  1. I work at a child psychiatric hospital. These kiddos generally live with us for six to nine months. Most of the staff are pretty buttoned up about their private lives, and rightly so, but I make it a point to be that counselor who also sees a therapist and needs medication for my issues. It can be so helpful for them to realize that “people like them” can go to college, get jobs and be successful. The stigma kills, so I’m trying to do my best to help whittle away at it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is great for them to see someone like them who is able to succeed. Thank you for being “that counselor” who shows them there is hope. I’m hopeful for the future because more shows and movies are incorporating characters who do have issues, but are still able to move past them.

      Thank you for your comment, and for being a beacon of light for those you help.

      Like

  2. Thank you for sharing. Mental health issues are difficult to discuss, but in sharing we break down the barriers keeping us in silence. I suffer from anxiety and PTSD and it was years before I was strong enough to tell people that. So, thank you for being brave and speaking out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I grew up in a family that didn’t believe in psychology (they thought it was all made up by the pharmaceutical companies); I only recently found out I have PTSD, but have known (self diagnosis) about my anxiety and depression for years. It has taken time for me to start talking about it, but I feel it is the only way to start removing the stigma and unhealthy attitudes our society has about mental health issues.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I couldn’t possibly agree more. Your writing is beautiful, and depression is not the end of your life–though it is absolutely real. It can unfold into many gifts. I know. I’ve been there. Writing about it and talking with trusted people who actually know how to listen (as you point out in your final paragraph) is super important. I wish you well in your journey! 🙂 I’m so happy I found your post today!
    Elouise

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your comment. I have struggled with depression for over 15 years, and have found being honest and open is one of the best ways to deal with it. Writing about it can be difficult, but it is also very therapeutic. I am grateful for the friends I have now who accept me even when I’m depressed, I haven’t always had that blessing.

      Thank you for dropping by, and best of wishes in your own journey!

      Liked by 1 person

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