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Mental Health

Mental Illness: Part Two

We’re back.

In my last article, I wrote about happiness and mental illness, and how the stigma around it still hasn’t changed. I had a lot of people I know message me and tell me that I only spoke of anxiety, and I apologize as I was telling my story only to show that I understand and I want a change as well. So today is onto another common illness, and that is Depression.

I’ve been an advocate of mental health issues for years. I realized as a writer, people don’t exactly understand how to properly talk about these issues without shaming them and adding even more to the stigma that refuses to change. I’ve done my research because in a way I had to. I correctly diagnosed myself by doing research for projects and papers. My own doctor was shocked that I had such a strong understanding of my own condition. I realize now it’s because I was so determined to fight back. I’ve expanded my research over the years, trying to learn exactly how a disorder affects someone and how to help in the best ways possible. 

Here’s my issue with mental illness all around: We don’t know the differences. We seem to pick two different boxes: Normal and Different. Don’t pretend like it hasn’t been a thought before in your mind, whether or not you have one. I can tell you that for the last sixteen years I’ve known I don’t belong in the Normal box. Just as there are several different forms of anxiety, there are also many forms of depression. The ones we know the best, due to television’s lack of understanding and also Tumblr’s non-stop jokes, are Major Depression and Seasonal Affective Depression. We also know Bipolar Disorder, due to the insult we used to throw around of, “God, you’re so bipolar, take a chill pill!” (What cool kids we used to be.)

Do we actually understand the difference between any of these, or do bullies and lazy people just think that these are all exactly the same? Without looking it up, could you tell me the difference between Major and Atypical Depression? Judging by the names, you probably could. But if I read you the symptoms, would you really know?

-Increased appetite

-Sleeping more than usual

-Feeling of heaviness in your arms and legs

-Oversensitive to criticism

Do you know the difference?

So which is it? You’re probably thinking that it’s obvious, but not everyone is so quick to know the correct answer is actually Atypical Depression.

Not so simple, is it?

But what about the names you don’t know? Like what’s the difference between Major and Persistent? How can you tell the difference, and what do you do if you have one or the other?

You need to start by talking to your doctor. And if you’re lucky enough not to have to deal with the pain that mental illness brings, then you need to do your research. As I mentioned in the last article, I’m sick of being told to not be sad. It’s cruel. If someone tells me that, I refuse to listen to anything else they have to say. 

I know we joke all the time about depression because we’ve normalized it to the point where people don’t think it’s serious, but that’s not how it works for people who have a pain in their hearts and minds like depression. It’s all fun and games until it’s not.

Do your research. If you want to be able to help a friend in need, you can’t rely on them to give you the answers because chances are, they don’t know the answers either. But remember you do not have to help. Especially if your way of help is “Stop being depressed and grow up.”

My goal as a writer is to help end the stigma of mental illness. The only way we’re going to do that is spreading the word. Get educated, and take a stand against the stigma. I’m willing to, but I can’t do it alone. So are you willing to help or not?

Nickey Siegerman is an aspiring author from West Chester, PA. In addition to getting her Bachelor's from Kutztown for Professional Writing, she is in 3 writing clubs on campus, she talks about her dogs constantly and sings more than anyone should.
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