May was mental health awareness month. Mental health is a sensitive topic, but it is a prevalent illness in today’s society. This illness does not have a certain age, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or gender group that it attacks. However, it is an illness that paralyzes the mind. I am not writing this from a professional viewpoint, but a personal one.
My understanding of mental illness has grown personally over the years. In my culture, mental illness was not a topic that was often addressed properly. LaShaun Collier, Founder of Whole and Well @wholeandwell.co said it best, “in some cultures mental illness is viewed as weak minded. Because of this cultural belief many women felt shamed or disempowered. Mental illness should be nurtured and cared for”.
Because of the lack of knowledge and understanding, I was one that thought of mental illness as weak minded. That was until I had to deal with it personally within my aunt. My aunt and I are roommates and I asked her if I could share her story. Clearly, she said yes. She wants her story to be a testimony for other women, who suffer in silence. I asked her where does she believe her illness stemmed from? She stated life decisions, suppression of feelings and emotions, and low self-esteem. I asked her to help me to understand why these three reasons were a contributing factor to her bipolar depression.
She went on to explain that these three emotions did not work individually with her depression, all three worked together. From childhood into adulthood her self-esteem was low. She did not see herself as beautiful or smart as a young girl and as a woman, and never being told did not make it easier. From a young girl she accepted less and did less for herself. She learned to become whomever she thought someone wanted her to be, even if that meant losing herself. She learned to suppress emotions, never verbalizing physical and emotional abuse. My aunt learned obedience, protection of others even if they were right or wrong, and sacrificing herself for everyone’s well being as she suffered in silence. Through many years of suffering in silence and suppressing the pain, that suffering started to form into behaviors and those behaviors formed into mental illness, which was diagnosed as bipolar depression.
This blog is just an introduction of what my aunt has gone through mentally. My purpose is for readers to understand mental illness is real in women and you no longer have to suffer in silence. There are many causes and diagnoses of mental illness, and it can be managed with the proper help. Do not paralyze your mind with suppressing your feelings and thoughts. I pray this blog will dismiss all the negative thinking and stereotyping of mental illness.