Growing up I had no idea what a mental illness was, my parents never really talked to me about it. Well, lets face it, they never talked to me about my period or sex. I remember when I got my period, I was in sixth grade and I was at the community center on post (my dad was in the military), I was so scared and I walked home and told my mom, she gave me a pad, fed me spaghetti and told me to lay down. That was it. Thankfully, I knew there was Tylenol or ibuprofen to take with cramps but I really did not understand why I was having a period, I was the third child, the baby, and my sisters were no help. We moved around so much and I feel like my family was disconnected a lot. Since my dad was gone, my mom had to take care of three children and have a job, it was really hard for her. She barely spoke english and had to learn as we went.
Anyways, my family did not talk much about things I needed to know. I am not sure they even talked to my sisters about it. It was like talking about sex and our menstrual cycle was forbidden. So forget talking about mental illness. Looking back, I know my mom was depressed. She was alone for months on end, sometimes a year or so. She had no friends that helped and when we got stationed somewhere new, we had no family close by. There were times where my mom would have a breakdown with my older sister and start screaming and my other sister and I would hide. She would cry and we knew she was upset because she was doing it all alone. But no one spoke of it, each one of us just kept quiet. Fast forward to now, my sister is dealing with bi-polar, I have horrible anxiety, and my other sister, I have no idea. I have not talked to her in over five years (another story). Do we talk about each others mental illnesses? Nope. Not at all.
I was watching the new show on Netflix called “One Day at a Time,” and the abuelita (grandmother) on the show finds out that her daughter is taking antidepressants, she calls them “drugs,” and say, “it’s her in head.” I told my wife, that’s exactly how my parents are. Our emotional problems are in our head, and we just need to get over it is what they believe. People with a mental illness are just crazy or weird is their perspective.
I sometimes wonder if my parents talked to me about my phobia, instead of ignoring it, maybe I wouldn’t be suffering every day from it? Would have it been hard for them to sit us down and ask how we are and to be able to talk to us and our feelings? I don’t think so. Perhaps I could be living a normal life and not be scared to eat food, to travel, or just life in general. But, alas, it did not work out that way and I just have to overcome it myself.
I am not sure why there is such a stigma with mental illnesses. People should be able to get help when they are feeling depressed or anxious. They should get the help needed to feel themselves, whether its some type of therapy or pharmaceuticals. If you are dealing with a mental illness, please speak to someone about it, come talk to me. You are not alone. There is help out there. We are all filled with hopes and dreams and we should not let our mental illness keep us from doing things we want to achieve in life.
Keep Moving Forward
Much Love – WBC