The latest data from the National Institute for Mental Health indicates that nearly one in five adults (18%) in the United States battles an anxiety disorder. Nearly 15 million struggle with major depressive disorder, and yet the stigma of mental illness is alive and well.
With the stigma surrounding mood disorders, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling defective – like a typewriter with a few missing keys. We isolate ourselves. We forget that others struggle too (perhaps quietly, as we do). In moments of despair, keep these words in mind:
You are not your disorder.
You are not your depression. You are not your anxiety. These are things you battle. They are a result of chemical and biological imbalances – not of your failure to “suck it up” or simply “get better.” You are not defective or broken, and you do not need to be “fixed.”
If you were diagnosed with arthritis, would you tell yourself you’re a failure because you have arthritis? Would you define yourself based on that condition? Feel inadequate or weak? You are more than a diagnosis. By learning to think of your mood disorder the same way you can begin to make changes and develop better coping skills for dealing with your depression or anxiety.
Extend this kindness and compassion to others. It may feel as though we’re alone in our struggles, but if we delve a bit deeper, we often find others are in the same boat. Author Ian MacLaren once wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
We all struggle. We all stumble. The truth is that no one has it completely figured out, and that is okay. No one is perfect. And that is beautifully human.