The thing about mental illness is that it comes in all different forms. In a recent correspondence with someone, they mentioned feeling ashamed that their particular mental illness did not result from any specific “reason” or “trauma.” It doesn’t have to.
For some, it’s a chemical or hormonal imbalance. For others, a hereditary predisposition. Not everyone who struggles with their mental health has had a rough childhood or experienced a traumatic event. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)‘s website states that in 2021, 47.2% of all US adults received mental health services. I wonder how many more needed services but could not afford them or were too ashamed to seek them out? This statistic alone negates the stigma of mental health, in my opinion. How can something experienced by so many of us be too shameful to admit or talk about?
There is no doubt that COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown contributed to that number. Most of us experienced some level of elevated anxiety and stress from isolation during that time, and the advent of remote therapy has thankfully made treatment more accessible.
Indeed, a mental health issue or crisis can result from prolonged stress, which most people I know have experienced as adults. As we progress in our careers, one thing is almost always sure: climbing the ladder does not result in less work or worry.
Moving from a job with clearly defined tasks and limited accountability to a position that is autonomous and heavy in responsibility can be taxing and scary. It’s like transitioning from childhood to parenthood. You are now the decision maker; if things fall apart, it’s on you. No pressure, right? That stress compounds when internal or external expectations are not realistic. High achievers often live every day under duress because of this.
On the other hand, the lower-responsibility job comes with its own set of burdens. Many do not provide a living wage, and poverty is a colossal stress-inducer. Anyone who’s ever had a utility shut-off for non-payment will understand. Especially when you have dependents in your home.
I have known wonderful mothers who suffered awful postpartum depression that completely changed them. My dad was prescribed an anti-depressant after a mental breakdown, which ended up being the first signs of Huntington’s. Family members have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I have personally known the darkness of anxiety and depression. Honestly, who doesn’t have anxiety anymore?
If you have experienced or are living through mental health issues now, talk about it. Even if just with a friend or anonymously. Just putting it out there can be a relief. It can let others know they are not alone. It is not shameful, you are not lesser, and there are better options than self-medicating.
Sharing your own mental health story can be scary and even risky, but it shouldn’t be. Your personal experience may be exactly what someone else is trying to navigate now. You might have insight into what another needs. We can’t fix what is kept hidden. Shine a light.