Talking with Your Friends about Mental Illness
When I was first seeing a therapist and diagnosed with anxiety, it felt like a secret. I didn’t know how to bring up this topic with my friends, it felt like something taboo and embarrassing. I was afraid I would be judged and seen differently if people knew that I went to therapy. When I had to miss class for therapy I didn’t tell people why. I was secretive about it and would hope that my friends wouldn’t ask questions about it.
But after attending therapy for a while, a trusted adult gave me important advice. They told me to be open with friends about my struggle with anxiety. Through telling people why I was going to therapy, mental illness could be much less stigmatized. Mental illness doesn’t need to be taboo, and by telling people about your experiences, they might feel more compelled to talk about theirs.
So I started telling people that the reason I was missing class was because of therapy. Or I would tell my friends when something was making me anxious. I felt so relieved when I told people about what I was struggling with or how I was feeling. Through doing this, I found that some close friends also deal with similar problems. Mental illness is way more common than you might think. Through talking about it, I felt way less lonely.
When talking about therapy I felt that I was helping to destigmatize seeking help and dealing with mental illness. Many people think that therapy is only a place you go to if you are dealing with severe trauma or a life threatening mental illness. My friends were surprised when I told them that therapy can be as simple as a conversation with someone who gives advice when you feel sad or anxious. Friends dealing with mental illness felt like they could talk to me about it, because I was open about it.
While it might be uncomfortable to tell someone you are struggling with anxiety or need to miss class because of therapy, the more that I was open about it, the less uncomfortable it was to talk about.
Talking about mental illness and normalizing seeking help allows for me to claim the mental illness as mine. I feel like I have more control over it, and I feel relieved. At the same time, I can help someone else realize that they might need help and I can become closer with friends who I didn’t know were dealing with similar problems. It’s important that we normalize discussion regarding mental illness.
Have you ever opened up to anyone about your mental health or seeking treatment? What has either stopped you or caused you to open up?