The Silent Suffering of Living with a Mental Illness

Healing takes a village

1 in 5 people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Telling our stories and speaking out is a courageous act and much easier said than done.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and for many of us we may listen in silence.

We may sit on the sidelines and observe without ever saying a word about our own suffering.

For many of us we will hide our struggles about mental illness out of fear, shame and embarrassment.

For years I suffered in silence about my depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

On the outside I appeared strong and resilient but on the inside I was barely breathing.

I was too ashamed to talk about what I couldn’t even begin to face or make sense of.

It was just a jumbled mess inside my head that I tucked away in the corners of my mind.

My mental health was suffering and I was avoiding getting help.

I avoided it because I didn’t want to face the past head on.

I just hoped in time it would all go away but that didn’t happen.

In time I would slowly get help for my depression and trauma.

In time I would slowly speak out about what I was struggling with mentally.

Through my journey I realized some powerful lessons about staying silent and suffering with a mental illness.

Acknowledging you need help is the first step.

I know it may sound a little cliche but acknowledging that you need help is the first little big step towards a better life.

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” — Pema Chodron

I tried for years to do it on my own.

I avoided and it got me far; far away from intimate relationships including one with myself.

A friend recently shared she is really good at avoiding healing.

In the depths of our brokenness we can avoid healing because we don’t know what is on the other side.

It is as if we start to accept that our suffering is all there is and all there will ever be.

Sometimes we avoid healing because we don’t want to go back in time and revisit the past.

Through my own healing journey I’ve learned that nothing truly goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.

There is nothing shameful about acknowledging you need guidance and an expert to help you sort through it.

Healing takes a village.

Recently I did a photoshoot with a friend and we are both domestic violence survivors.

I shared with her how my recovery was going and something she said resonated with me.

“Healing takes a village.”

We need as much support as possible in our journeys of healing and recovery.

We need to feel encouraged and related to.

We don’t need to be stigmatized for being diagnosed with a mental illness or seen as “crazy”.

Mental health is just like any other part of our lives from physical and spiritual health.

It needs to be addressed, nurtured and normalized so that we can feel safe in our own skin.

It can be hard to climb out of the rut of suffering to invite people in.

Take a tiny step whether it is joining a Facebook group, online forum, group therapy, meetup, or getting an emotional support animal.

Whatever you do, don’t go it alone.

Be supported in the process of healing.

Share about it.

For years I couldn’t exactly talk in detail about my trauma or depressive episodes.

I felt embarrassed by it and yet didn’t realize that there was a reason for all of it.

All of my symptoms led me back to one road, the sexual abuse with my father.

For a while, instead of talking about it I would write.

Writing helped me in a way that talking couldn’t.

In therapy I would talk minimally about the abuse and never in great detail.

These days through consistent therapy, writing and building safe relationships I am finding it much easier to talk about it out loud.

If you can find a way to share it may be the tool to guide you through your healing.

Write. Talk. Create. Dance. Make art.

In whatever way that calls to you, do it.

It is a part of you, not all of you.

Living with a mental illness is not ALL of you.

It is a part of you just like any other body part.

We learn how to integrate it into our everyday lives in a healthy way.

Through tools, conversation and help we can begin the journey of recovery and moving forward, step by step.

Healing isn’t an overnight process but it is a key to getting better.

There are people who care. There is a world of good humans.

And they deserve to know you, all of you.

Self-help & mental health writer. Can't do small talk. Mama. Yogi. Coffee lover. Nature explorer. Get my free meditation mini-course here: www.emilystroia.com

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