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Katelyn’s Story

“People struggle with understanding that mental illness is not a choice.”

What kind of stigma did you experience/observe?

For me the hardest part about my mental illness was accepting and realizing that I had it in the first place.
About 6 months after I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety I looked back over the past 5 years of my life and all the pieces fell into place. It felt so obvious after I had been diagnosed that I had been suffering for awhile, but when I was going through it I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had a problem and needed help because of the stigma. I was afraid of being bullied again at school, of telling my parents, and having people treat me differently or think I was unstable.

I’ve been on medication and have changed my lifestyle so that I can look forward to my day when I wake up every morning.

Overcoming the stigma is truly everything and if I could go back and get help sooner, I would. The other part is overcoming stigmas within the context of a relationship. My boyfriend does not suffer from mental illness and does not always understand my actions and can get annoyed with me when I am having a bad day and really struggling. It has been a process and real work trying to get him to understand and accept that I can’t always just shake things off and stop being in a bad mood.

People struggle with understanding that mental illness is not a choice. I don’t want to feel depressed or anxious! This of course causes tension in the relationship and can be really hard to overcome if you aren’t willing to be patient and communicate constantly.

How did you overcome this experience?

The biggest thing that has helped me overcome stigma is self-awareness. I spend a lot of time reflecting and analyzing my own thoughts so I don’t get bogged down by my illnesses. When I do this I am also better able to articulate how I feel to people who don’t suffer from mental illness and don’t always understand what it is like to be in my shoes. Trying not to take things personally has helped me too. Some people truly do not know what mental illness is like and just don’t understand. Take the time to try to explain.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

Be unapologetic about your happiness. I’m slowly learning that my life is MINE, and mine only. Forget what everyone else thinks and do what needs to be done for you to live a happy and healthy life.

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