Sandy is a student at Texas A&M University. She shares insights from her own life and how acceptance of her own challenges, help from family, friends, therapist and life coaches has enabled her to find the balance to move forward in her life.

Living with mental illness is hard. Besides finding the right therapist and medications, there is the stigma that comes along with having a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder etc.. The ideas that are often associated with different types of mental illness can make it hard to talk to friends and family about it because there’s the fear that they won’t understand, and take the first steps to get the help that you need. Over the past couple years, however, the stigma of having one of these disorders has lessened with more information becoming available and more people who have mental illness speaking out about what it’s like living with it.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 Americans experience some kind of mental illness, 1 in 25 have a serious mental illness. Furthermore, 60% of adults and 50% of youth, 8 to 15-year-olds, struggling with mental illness did not receive mental health services last year. That’s a lot of people who go without any kind of help for their illness, and more than likely it’s because of the way society views and talks about mental illness.

Because of the stigma attached to mental illness, it took me years to come to terms with having a mental illness and seeking help for it.

robot-hugs-madison-blogThese are the words that come up when you look up “mental illness” in the thesaurus: insanity, craziness, delusions, derangement, disturbed mind, emotional instability, loss of mind, the list goes on. These are probably the words that come to mind for most people when they think of mental illness, and with such a negative connotation, who would want to admit that they struggle with a mental illness? Mental illness should be treated like any other physical ailment. Just because it’s not apparent on the surface doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. An artist, who goes by the name Robot Hugs, recently made a great comic about the issue that hopefully helps to put things in perspective.

It can be so easy to feel alone and broken and that people don’t understand, and even little things like a cartoon can help immensely.

Because of the stigma attached to mental illness, it took me years to come to terms with having a mental illness and seeking help for it. I have been diagnosed with social anxiety and major depressive disorder. I thought that I was just really, really shy, but it was more than that. It’s this voice in my head telling me that I’m not good enough, or that people don’t really want to talk to me. With the help of therapy, and later using life coaches, I became aware of this twisted thinking and knew that they weren’t true, but sometimes no matter how many times I tell myself that it isn’t true, I can’t get rid of these negative thoughts. I felt like my depression was just me being lazy and that I should just “get over it.” A lot of the time, it felt like it was all in my head. It bothered me a lot because a lot of the time there wasn’t any real reason for the way that I felt, but I couldn’t get rid of the feeling, it just hung over me like a dark cloud.

Luckily, I had friends and family that helped me through it. They didn’t always understand, but they loved me and were supportive. Not everyone has that though. There are so many people with stories like mine that don’t have that network of support to get them through it, and maybe even struggle with it in silence. I hope that through becoming more informed about mental illness and talking about it more that we can continue to change how people view mental illness. More and more on social media, I see articles and memes about mental illness and it makes me so happy. It can be so easy to feel alone and broken and that people don’t understand, and even little things like a cartoon can help immensely. It’s definitely a step in the right direction and I hope that we continue to do so.