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Masking Mental Illness

Recently, I was shocked to hear about the passing of one of my favorite designers, Kate Spade. To me, she had it all going for her. Her purses and clothing continually exuded this idea of confidence, happiness, and class. Seeing the bright colors, funky patterns, or even just the glitter on some of her pieces brought a smile to my face.

And then, from what seems out of the blue, I hear that she’s gone. I can’t believe it. How can someone who spread so much joy and confidence to women all over the world be gone? How could she have felt so low that her only option was to leave this life?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t write any of this to shame her or anything negative. I’m trying to paint a particular picture for you. I’m trying to emphasize that no matter what things may look like on the outside, you never know what someone is struggling with.

Our society teaches us to mask our mental illness. It teaches us to cover up any flaws or insecurities, to never speak about our brokenness, and to continue on through life with a wave and a smile. I’m here to ask you something that I ask my clients almost daily: “How’s that workin, for ya?” I can hear you all talking back to me, probably with answers similar to my clients: “…it’s not.” And you’re right, IT’S NOT.

This is no longer a time to stay quiet. This is no longer a time to pretend that everything is alright. We are all broken, in some way or another. We cannot keep pretending or we will continue to lose those who inspire and teach us, whether they are celebrities or people closer to us.

How many other Robin Williams’, Chris Cornells, Chester Benningtons, Aviciis, Kate Spades, Anthony Bourdains,  or the other almost 45,000 other unnamed Americans will we let slip through the cracks before we decide to break the stigma against mental health?

How do we start?

  1. Talk about it.When you’re hurting, share it with a friend or a therapist. I can guarantee you, there is someone out there who cares and is ready to listen!
  2. Normalize it.Anxiety is real. Depression is real. Suicidal thoughts are real. But they don’t have to be scary. Acknowledging these struggles, along with all the other not so common issues, can begin to take their power away. Having an open dialogue about mental health creates awareness and understanding, and ultimately leads to receiving help.
  3. Find a support system. I don’t know how to stress this enough. You do not have to suffer alone! So often we are afraid of what others will think if we take off our pretty mask. Revealing what’s truly going on opens the door for other people to not only let their guards down, but to also come along side you as you work through darker days.

Please, don’t isolate yourself.  We don’t shame people when they have cancer. We don’t shame them for having strep throat or a stomach bug. It’s time to begin looking at mental illness the through the same lens we look at physical illness. It’s time to start stepping up, speaking out, and breaking the stigma against mental illness to show our support for those who are hurting.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please look for help. Phone a friend, reach out to us at Amy Wine Counseling, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Someone is waiting to help.

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