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BIS LIVES Blog

Lies We Tell Ourselves about Mental Health

why mental health matters

From researching and writing about mental health as a journalist to talking about it with loved ones, I’ve realized how common mental illness is. But I’ve also realized how hidden these disorders can be. That is, a successful career, an active social life, motherhood, or good grades are not markers of mental illness. But even women whose lives seem put together can, of course, struggle with it. More than that, in some circles, mental health just doesn’t come up in conversation. The stigma around mental illness or the negative connotations of words like “disorder” and “illness” could be to blame. Plus, opening up about mental health can be nerve-wracking and uncomfortable, if not humbling.

4 Lies We Tell Ourselves about Mental Health

More and more people (like bloggers and celebrities) have gone public with their mental health struggles, which has, in part, brought disorders out of the shadows of stigma. Even as honest, open dialogue about psychological disorders becomes normal, however, some misconceptions remain. So, let’s shed some light on four of the lies we tell ourselves about our mental health.

Lie #1: No one understands what this is like.

When mental health concerns become a lasting source of stress and emotional distress, it’s a sign of mental illness. The term mental illness covers several classes of disorders, which are so different from one another that it’s difficult to generalize the effects of each. Not to mention, psychological disorders can be more or less severe in different people. In general, though, mental illness affects thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

In the United States, about one in five women lives with mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Some research suggests that almost all of us will, at some point, develop a mental disorder. In other words, you’re not alone. Others get it. Your circumstances are different, to be sure. But others get it.

Still, having a psychological disorder can feel isolating. A therapist or other mental health professional may be able to point you to a local support group. Online support groups are another option if you don’t have access to a support group in your area. The internet can facilitate connection and a sense of belonging between people who have the same condition. Even if you don’t join a support group, you can take comfort knowing others share similar struggles.

Lie #2: No one can help me.

Data shows that about 49% of women with mental illness are receiving help for their condition. What about the other half? Of course, not all people can access or afford treatment. In addition, the stigma of mental illness can keep people from seeking help. Others doubt that mental health professionals can help them.

First, certain mental illnesses—such as bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and schizophrenia—are chronic (persisting over a long period of time). While a cure doesn’t exist, these conditions are treatable.

Second, aside from chronic conditions, most psychological disorders are short-lived with proper treatment. (That doesn’t mean these disorders aren’t debilitating, though.) For most people, treatment includes talk therapy, medication, or both. Medication alleviates symptoms. Talk therapy teaches you to cope with what’s troubling you—and helps you better understand your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in the process.

When it comes to mental health concerns, seek help sooner than later. Your wellbeing depends on it, after all. Remember that reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Remember that reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. #BISblog // Click To Tweet

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Lie #3: Everyone will judge me.

Broaching the subject of mental health with a significant other, friend, relative, or spiritual director can be intimidating. Fear of judgment can keep these conversations from even happening. You may wonder whether others will think less of you, treat you like a different person, or distance themselves from you.

If anything, though, these people should respect you more for what you’re up against—and for having the courage to share it with them. What’s more, talking about mental health in trusted relationships opens the door for others to share their experiences. Who knows, before long, conversations about mental health could become your new normal.

Talking about mental health with others can feel liberating, but that doesn’t have to mean coming forward with these struggles on social media or another public platform. (Major respect for those who do, though.) While talking about mental health helps to break the stigma, these conversations do not need to happen with each of your relatives, acquaintances, etc. if that doesn’t feel right. Reserving conversations about mental health for those closest to you is a valid decision that deserves respect, too.

Lie #4: If I were holier, I wouldn’t have a mental illness.

You know Jesus offers peace, but you’re anxious. You’ve tried to rest in the Lord’s presence, but you’re restless. You’ve heard that Christians should be joyful, but you feel numb.

Before you wonder whether you’re giving enough to God—praying enough, fasting enough, and so on—remember that psychological disorders dictate thoughts and emotions. Remember, too, that faith isn’t all about feelings. So, it’s OK (and natural) to not feel what you “should” feel. The symptoms of mental illness do not point to a weak faith life or poor relationship with God. Mental illness is a matter of health, not holiness.

Mental illness is a matter of health, not holiness. #BISblog // Click To Tweet

Likewise, don’t be discouraged if you’re praying for healing and it’s not happening. Yes, God heals according to His will, but that doesn’t mean treatment isn’t in His will. While God can use suffering for a greater good, He wants you to experience happiness and some degree of fulfillment. For that reason, it’s acceptable—and super important—to seek the care of mental health professionals. If you’re dealing with mental illness, treatment will allow you to function better and, therefore, better live out your vocation.

What lies have you believed about mental health?

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Mary Claire Lagroue is a journalist who covers culture, health, food, and travel. Between the deadlines, find her buried in a book, mapping out her next weekend trip, or designing cards at Paper Garden Goods.

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Paola @ Swallow the World
    February 27, 2019 at 11:07 am

    Thanks for this post, I’m sure it’s going to help a lot of people break the silence and the barriers of shame! I’ve suffered from a mental illness (anorexia) and can relate so much. Once I’ve opened up about it, I’ve mostly received positive reactions from people, encouragement and love. And many people have come to me in return to open up about their own struggles, things they’d been keeping to themselves for years out of fear. And the 4th lie is also very very dangerous, and unfortunately some Catholic people and groups still make you feel that way.

  • Reply
    Kathryn Miles
    March 3, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    Thank you for making this blog. I have seen a lot of mental illness treated like it’s an easy fix. It is certainly not lol. I have also heard the stigma that God only comes through in the form of miracles. I love that you address that here. God’s faithfulness can come through an amazing counselor/psychiatrist/pastor/friend and a myriad of other ways.

  • Reply
    Katy
    March 9, 2019 at 11:42 pm

    You have no idea how many people, including 2 spiritual directors, called my depression a spiritual darkness that I needed to embrace and endure, instead of realizing that I needed therapy, and lots of it. I am so thankful that God brought a mental health minded spiritual director into my life, and also a great therapist. It can be so easy to spiritualize depression, and this is one of the first posts I’ve seen that really out and says, God intends you to be happy. Yes, there are crosses, and redemptive suffering is a thing, but depression needs to be treated.

  • Reply
    ADRIANA
    April 1, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! For years, I’ve been dealing with anxious thoughts ans scroupulosity. I always thought I was being super sinner because of little things, anxious about whether something was a sin or not, and I would go to confession almost weekly and once I had confession two days in a row, always going to different priests because I was embarrased. It wasn’t until I decided to have a spiritual director and told him everything, that he suggested that it was probably a mental health issue and recommended me to go to therapy. It was a huge relief to know that I was not as bad as I thought I was and that it can get better. BUT my family, as a traditional mexican family, has a HUGE stigma around mental health and does not like me going to therapy. So there’s still a long way to go.

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