I have been struggling with depression and anxiety since I was in high school. At the time, I did not realize I had a problem. This was partly because I did not want to acknowledge that I could have a mental illness. Even though I had suicidal thoughts, I kept them to myself.

There was a lot of stigma and misunderstanding about these mental conditions. There were lots of people around me who had called suicidal people selfish. I had not been exposed to a lot of information about different types of mental illness and conditions.

Even though many people would refer to individuals as crazy and selfish, I remember feeling pain and empathy towards them. I started to wonder if this is who I was. The best way I could define what I was going through was that I was shy and awkward. The only way to address it was to hope that I would grow out of it.

It was after I got to Uni that I started researching various mental health issues such as suicidal ideation, anxiety, and depression. By this time, I became a loner. I had lost many of my friends. I started taking alcohol more frequently and occasionally took marijuana.

Even after researching and getting a clear understanding of depression and anxiety, I still could not get the courage to get help. It took me five years to get help. I was eventually diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Here is what I have learned so far.

Dangers of Stigma

One if four people will be affected by a mental health condition during their lives. Despite this, there is still a lot of stigmas associated with mental illnesses. It prevents people from getting treatment at early stages when they experience the first symptoms.

One problem with mental health is that many people are oblivious of it. Saying people with suicidal ideas or those who have committed suicide in the past are selfish seems sensible to them. It is what they’ve heard as they were growing up. A good number of people have only been exposed to this world view.

Even people who are knowledgeable about mental health, still respond and react to the stigma. It shapes their lives, even when they know they are based on misconceptions. As I was going for the diagnosis, some family members asked me whether I was sure. They felt the records of a mental condition would affect my job prospects in the future.

A Diagnosis can be Liberating

Since my diagnosis, I have met many people who have had their struggles with mental health. Many of them agree that getting a diagnosis felt liberating. Before you understand your condition, it is easy to feel sorry for yourself. You may find yourself thinking that there is something wrong with you. Because you can’t define it, the tendency is to conclude that you are hopeless or a loser.

A loser is something you very much are NOT.

A diagnosis can help you get to the root of the problem in a way that fundamentally changes your life. You may have taken up anger management therapy, not realizing that you have bipolar. Or you may be trying to address anxiety not realizing you have PDD-NOS or Asperger’s.

Getting a diagnosis can be scary for some people at first. This is especially true if they’ve grown up in an environment where mental illnesses are stigmatized. But as you come to terms with it, you’ll realize there are many advantages of a diagnosis. Whether you need depression, anxiety, or anger management therapy, it is crucial that the treatment starts on time.

I still get bouts of anxiety, but it is not as intense. I have learned to manage it. Now I like to write and talk to people with mental health problems. I feel like I’ve found my purpose. I know the life-changing value that support has when you are feeling lonely and misunderstood. I don’t have all the answers but I do my best to support those in need.

Thank you to Patrick for sharing so openly in this great piece. If you are struggling with your mental health whether depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, then do please get in touch with us via our listening service or in our closed, safe, monitored Facebook Group.

If you have a story to share about your own mental health journey or any writerly or wellbeing pieces, get in touch on paul@poetsin.com.

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