It's May, and based on the title of this post, you probably know what that means! May is mental health awareness month, and in case you've never met me, I'm just a bit passionate about this topic :). As someone who has lived with mental illness for her whole life, I know firsthand how damaging stigma and ignorance can be to someone suffering. It is already so, so hard to cope with mental illness(es). To experience a lack of support and understanding, and to constantly be surrounded by harmful statements from others (such as misusing a mental illness, suggestion some kill themselves as a "joke," etc.) only exasperates this pain. I truly think that education is the key to eliminating stigma and creating sympathy, and I'm so thankful I've been able to play even a small role in this important process.
Being a full-time student (I'm taking 20 hours this semester!) and being significantly impacted by mental and physical health issues doesn't make writing easy, but I want to take this month and write a few, short blog posts with some facts about mental illness. For example, many people think mental illnesses are entirely in the mind. While this thinking is harmful for many reasons, such as perpetuating the thought that an illness of the brain isn't a true illness or that they are made up or self-inflicted, it is also simply untrue. Mental illnesses cause many debilitating physical symptoms, and they can also interfere with pre- or coexisting physical illnesses. Here are just a few physical symptoms of common mental illnesses:
— Inability to think/ brain fog. I have had brain fog so severe that my parents have been speaking to me, but I haven't been able to understand what they're saying. No matter how hard I try to focus, it's as though they are speaking gibberish. This also translates to being unable to read and write. While this has affected my personal happiness, it also makes schoolwork a bit of a challenge!
— Fatigue. I'm not talking about being a bit tired after a long day or a poor night's sleep. This is fatigue that does not go away no matter how long you sleep. This is fatigue that makes your body feel as though it is made out of concrete. This is fatigue that makes you so tired, you feel as though you're unable to even open your mouth to speak.
— Trouble sleeping. Even with the extreme fatigue mentioned above, many people struggle to sleep. I've gone over a month without proper sleep before, where even though I'm exhausted, I cannot get my mind to shut off enough to sleep (or cannot stay asleep for more than an hour at a time). With brain fog added in, it's not even that my mind is racing with great, complex thoughts. Sometimes, it's like there's a current of white noise and static keeping you awake.
Even though my mind is a bit fuzzy and I'm in the midst of finals week, I couldn't let the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month pass without posting something, even if it isn't necessarily the finest piece I've ever written. Letting go of perfection is something that being ill has taught me. I don't have to write the perfect article, story, essay, book, etc. every time. I feel blessed when I can write anything at all, just like I've been able to today. For now, that's more than enough.