We live in an age where the topics which were once considered taboo are now a common discussion point as we scroll down our social media pages. One of these many topics is still something that is rather ignored or repressed in our society: Mental Illnesses. Once considered as a product of witchcraft that caused the behaviors not considered normal, these mental illnesses plague individuals in a horrendous manner and the worst part is, their suffering usually goes unheard.
Of course, you have read numerous articles about them. You have probably done your research or know of someone who suffers from a mental illness. Perhaps, you yourself suffer from one. So I write this for those unsung heroes, who fight a battle every second of the day and continue to do so without anyone really knowing. The heroes who become a beacon of hope for others while the light in their own life flickers away. I write this for each and every one of you who have been a victim or spectator of mental illnesses.
Whenever we suffer from a fever or some other ailment, we go to a doctor and we sit uncomfortably on that round, steel stool as we explain our symptoms and wait for a diagnosis. We take the prescription, get whatever tests needed to be done, and continue the treatment until our health is back in shape. So why is it that we ignore our mental health when it suffers from an ailment as well? Why is any suffering on a psychological or emotional level considered to be something that is just ‘in our head’ and does not need any assistance?
We simply wait it out as we feel the strings in our chest pull to the point that they tear, our heart sink as if an anchor is attached to it and it swings against your ribs faster than you can blink. We cry uncontrollably or feel a complete lack of emotion but we simply call it a phase even if it has been well above 3 months. Sometimes, our body aches, stiffens and becomes unusually tired or oddly active. Either we sleep for days or do not sleep at all or our appetite fluctuates as we try to keep tabs on our weight every time we come out of the shower. Because of course, it is all in our head. And we are weak for losing control over ourselves, right?
Of course not! You are human, my friend. You are flawed in so many ways that your imperfection itself is what makes you who you are and you should be proud of it. You hate yourself for feeling the way you do, for lacking the ability to control your thoughts, emotions, and habits, for feeling misunderstood and alone. But why must you put yourself through this self-loathing when you are not at fault?
Mental illnesses have a tendency to develop as a product of nurture and nature.
This means the environment, experiences, and upbringing and how it all affects you as well as the biology, physiology, and genetics of your being. This brings me to explain to you three factors that help formulate as to why you may have a certain mental illness.
The first is the predisposing factor. Nature can do wonders and just as it may bless you with certain features or skills, it also may leave you predisposed to suffer from a mental illness. Now, this predisposing factor could be how the mental illness is already found in your immediate family, or how your biological makeup is such that it is susceptible to develop the certain mental illness. This does not mean you will definitely develop the mental illness, but that it is possible you may develop it and nothing else. For example, your mother suffered from depression and that is possibly transferred to your genes now.
The second is the precipitating factor. This is also known as the ‘triggering’ factor, the certain event(s) or experience(s) that may let the floodgates open before the onset of the problem that is identified. There is not much to explain about this because the word ‘trigger’ is quite self-explanatory. However, let us extrapolate on the situation mentioned in the predisposing factor. A mother suffered from depression, so an individual has a predisposition to develop the mental illness. And then the individual suffers through a trauma at a certain age, which becomes the precipitating factor because after that trauma, the individual reports the disturbances and symptoms.
The third and last factor is the perpetuating factor. This is also known as the ‘maintaining’ factor as there is something which maintains the problems of the individual. In the situation described, that individual may have a dysfunctional family and does not receive the help they need for their problems either.
And this distasteful mix leads you to suffer from something for weeks, months and even years. Whether it is depression, anxiety, PTSD, personality disorders, substance use etc, it is not entirely your fault. And you must stop running away from the idea of seeking help simply because society would say something or you feel things are alright this way. You deserve love, understanding and to give your mind, heart, soul and body importance. A certain stigma is attached to anyone who suffers from a mental illness or seeks help from a psychologist/psychiatrist because these doctors are considered to treat only the insane. But would you really sacrifice your personal happiness in fear of what label is attached to you or what society would say? In the end, it is you who has to live their life and not them. In the end, your happiness and well-being matter more than some gossip and labels.
If you suffer from a mental illness or know someone who does, do not fear seeking help. Reach out even if the room is dark because I assure you, someone will grab your hand and the light will shine down on your eventually. Things will be clearer, you’ll be able to manage things more effectively and understand yourself much better.
Remove these shackles and fly towards the clouds of betterment. You are, indeed, not alone.
And even if you feel you are, feel free to reach out to us if anything at all. It would be a shame to lose a gem like you!