When someone has a physical illness, we offer sympathy and gestures of goodwill. But when someone suffers from mental illness, most people back off and form opinions. Despite the copious material available on the subject, our cultural awareness and sensitivities toward mental health still need some serious tweaking. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that people should suck it up and “just deal.” Imagine saying that to someone with diabetes. Outrageous, right?
In the early ‘80s there wasn’t a national dialogue on these issues, so I wasn’t diagnosed with OCD until my late twenties. Like a lot of kids with OCD, my rituals and ticks were the butt of family jokes. For years, the internal narrative that streamed in my head was pretty ugly, and I faced it alone. Once I learned there was a name for my cycle of intrusive thoughts and compulsion to conduct a host of daily rituals, I felt a sense of relief—I wasn’t alone anymore.
Support for mental health looks different for everyone. For some, it’s a support group and self-help reading. For others, it’s psychotherapy and medications. We’re all wired differently and cope with the hand we’re dealt in unique ways.
This month, I invite you to pause and reflect on the mental health of everyone in your life—including yourself.