It reads: Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are not a sign of weakness . they are signs of having tried to remain strong for too long. did you know that 1 in 3 of us go through this at some point in our lives? would you post this on your wall for at least 1 day? Most people wont but its mental health awareness week! Share the support. let those who struggle know there not alone…
This message is a contradiction. It starts by telling us that ‘Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are not a weakness… and halfway through tells us that the people who suffer from them aren’t strong. Ouch.
For a number of years I could not control my anxiety about everyday things. It felt like being trapped inside of another me. The rational me (trapped inside) could see the irrational me (in control of what I did and said) behaving irrationally, but couldn’t do much to stop it. I did and said things while, inside, I knew I was being destructive. I was on autopilot.
At no point did I think I was weak. At no point did I think I was failing to remain strong enough.
My anxiety required medication treatment. It did not require me to become stronger in order to cope with it and deal with it. People are often afraid to accept they might have a mental illness because they view it as a weakness. It’s a terrible stigma that stops many seeking the treatment that might help them.
Having overcome my anxiety problems I do feel like I battled something and have grown, as a person, because of it. Maybe some people would describe that as ‘becoming stronger’, but personally I just think of it as overcoming an obstacle. I had to dig deep to find the ability and willingness to do it. It wasn’t that I wasn’t strong enough, it’s that I wasn’t able.
But don’t be mistaken in thinking that those who haven’t been able to overcome or cope with their illness or their problems haven’t because they’re weak, because there is nothing weak about battling with mental illness day in and day out. There is nothing weak about going toe to toe with the other version of you in your head. There is nothing weak about trying your best to function within society when every part of you is screaming ‘no, no, no!’
Suggesting that those with mental health problems have them because they weren’t able to stay strong isn’t very supportive. It feeds the narrative that mental illness is a weakness. It’s great to be sympathetic to those who have to try and cope with mental illness, but the language used when talking about mental illness can be devastating when it isn’t thought through.
With that in mind, I wanted to share this RSA Short called ‘The Power of Empathy’. In it, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.