I suffer from chronic migraines. Was that difficult for me to admit to publicly? No. Why not? Because there’s no stigma attached to getting migraines. I don’t feel like a weak person because I get them. People don’t run in the other direction when I tell them, and I’m not afraid that I’m being whispered about behind my back. My migraines don’t define me; they’re just a part of my life.
It is always said that you can never fully understand something until you are put in that situation yourself. And I find this to be true for the most part, especially when it comes to my headaches because it truly is so hard to relate to something when you’ve never gone through it yourself. (See article: 35 things you should never tell a chronic migraine sufferer…it’s actually pretty comical: http://www.migravent.com/blog/migraines/35-things-you-should-never-tell-a-chronic-migraine-sufferer/)
People who don’t suffer from migraines don’t usually understand them. They think getting a migraine means having to shut yourself in a dark room and not being able to stand up or function while one is occurring. So if you’re up and at your job or out to dinner with friends, to many people this means that you can’t possibly have a migraine. But what people don’t understand is how easy it is to learn to live with things and to hide and suppress pain. After a while you just become numb to it. There are times when I am going through really bad bouts that I don’t remember what it feels like not to have a headache. And so it becomes routine and you get used to feeling like someone is constantly squeezing your brain and pain bugs are camping out behind your eyes.
But, despite all of that, I am lucky. So lucky. Because I can tell anyone I want about my migraines without fear of judgment. And, I’m not afraid to seek treatment or admit to taking medicine every night for them because there’s no stigma attached to suffering from migraines. If anything, people just want to help. But, that’s not the case with depression. Or any other mental health disorder for that matter. And that’s a problem.
The other day I watched a video and listened to what was the most powerful speech I have heard in a long time. It was captivating in its rawness, and seeping in truth and pain. It took real courage to say and yet it was about one of the most pressing issues in our society, an issue that needs to be talked about all the time: depression. I URGE you to take the time to watch this video. It is worth every minute and will shake you to the core and really open your eyes to an issue that is all too often pushed aside in our society.
That stigma. That’s a blaring problem in our society. And despite being someone who understands what it’s like to suppress pain and hide behind a smile, I have even found myself guilty of this at times. I caught myself the other day; I was explaining the medicine I take for my migraines and said how it is an anti-depressant and then immediately followed this statement up with “but I’m not depressed or anything” as if depression was a hot potato I was immediately swatting away in order to protect myself from its immense heat. What was that heat? The stigma.
It is crazy how engrained this stigma is in all of us. I consider myself someone who is pretty knowledgeable on mental health disorders and even I fell prey to subconsciously trying to combat the stigma that goes along with depression. In the past I was on a medicine for my headaches that was an anti-seizure drug and I didn’t feel the need to say, “but I don’t get seizures” immediately afterward, or at all for that matter. That’s the reality of the situation. That’s why this is such a big issue in our society: because we are all guilty of this at times, and that isn’t the way it should be.
As Kevin says in the video, “Depression isn’t chicken pox…you don’t beat it once and its gone forever…it’s something you live with, it’s something you live in, it’s the roommate you can’t kick out, it’s the voice you can’t ignore, it’s the feelings you can’t seem to escape and the scariest part is, that after a while you become numb to it, it becomes normal for you and what you really fear the most isn’t the suffering inside of you it’s the STIGMA inside of others, it’s the shame, it’s the embarrassment, it’s the disapproving look on a friend’s face, it’s the whispers in the hallway that you’re weak, it’s the comments that you’re crazy…that’s what keeps you from getting help, that’s what makes you hold it in and hide it.” The reason why every thirty seconds someone, somewhere in the world takes their own life is because of this stigma. People suffering from depression aren’t getting the help they need because they are embarrassed and they’re afraid of the judgments of all those around them, including yours and mine.
Recognize when those around you are drowning. Lift them up. Help them breathe. There is no worse feeling than crying underwater. Tears should not be lost. They should be acknowledged. Otherwise, there’s no hope for wiping them away.
We can’t run away from the problem or shove it in a corner to look at later because we are a BIG part of the problem, and because we are part of the problem, we are also part of the solution. As Kevin says, “The only way that we’re going to beat a problem that people are battling alone is by standing strong together.”
Standing strong together means no more hot potato; no more pushing away issues that are immensely important and no more making people feel like the only way out is the door we don’t want anyone to have to take. Please, please pass this post/video along to friends and family so that we can raise awareness of this bully, this brutal stigma and eliminate it altogether from our society. No one should be alone in this fight.