Why We Hide Mental Illness
I’ve been dealing with depression for quite some time, as you all know. I have been incredibly suicidal in the past, and no one has known. I have had panic attacks and excused myself outside before I either passed out and/or threw up, and nobody was the wiser. I have worn a bright smile even though I was barely functioning on the inside. Hiding mental illness is incredibly easy for me. Part of me thinks that this skill is the reason why I wasn’t forced to seek help until my 3rd suicide attempt. It is strange to think that anybody you meet can be dealing with tons of their own issues, and not even let out the slightest sign that they are struggling. Hiding a mental illness, I feel, is directly tied to the stigma surrounding the subject matter. It is similar to the feeling of a homosexual person hiding their true feelings because of the fear of being judged.
While the times are changing for the LGBT community, and things are becoming more accepting in that respect, the mental health stigma is still there. I agree that even in the past few years since I have been “in the system” the atmosphere surrounding mental health has lightened slightly. I am certainly not saying that nothing has changed for us in the MH community, but I feel that things are crawling at an immensely slow pace. For this reason, many people, myself included, still feel the need to hide their mental illness. For example, I hide my mental health from my coworkers, where my family and friends know all about it. Now I know you’re probably thinking that it’s a pretty normal move to hide something like depression from those you work with, and I agree. The only issue, is with my therapy appointments, I have to tell my boss that I need to leave early for a doctor’s appointment. While I’m not completely lying, it’s definitely not the truth either. I have fabricated this incredibly complex web of lies surrounding my job and my mental health. There are times where I forget what I said and am almost discovered for the “fraud” that I am. I do have physical problems that lend my lies a slight bit of truth as the seed, but it still just feels wrong.
I should be able to tell people that I see a therapist, without getting all these strange looks and shocked remarks. I know that it’s not the end of the world that I don’t tell people about my therapy. I just wish that it was seen the same as going to the actual doctor, and treated the same way. Physical and mental health are not that different, depression is a sickness of the brain, and yet we treat it as if this evil demon is inside of someone. It becomes this thing that people don’t want to understand, and they vilify it because of that fact. I know that this is a major generalization, but it’s the way that I feel mental health is treated these days. I know that I got distracted by my angst for the mental health system, but the moral of this story is, mental health should not need to be hidden. When it is, it festers inside us only making things worse. I’m not saying scream from the rooftops that you have depression, anxiety, PTSD, Bipolar, etc. Im saying that we need to be more open with the people around us and medical professionals.