I remember the day I was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It was my first year of graduate school, and I saw a counselor at the university I was at. She diagnosed me and sent me to a psychiatrist who confirmed the diagnosis.
It sounds silly, at this point, to think that I ever didn’t have a diagnosis. That I went into the appointment wondering whether or not she would think I had a problem. Clearly I did, and clearly I always knew it. But still… when you first get that diagnosis, it can be a bit jarring.
I remember it took me a while to get used to it. Anxiety disorder. I’ll admit that back then it made me feel broken. It made me feel less than. But at the same time, it also made me feel heard. Finally someone acknowledged and gave a word to what I always knew deep inside.
These memories were brought back to me today because I read about the closing of the Postpartum Progress not for profit, an organization that aimed to help women suffering from maternal mental health issues and to raise awareness of such issues. Regardless of what the organization should or shouldn’t have done in the midst of their issues, it’s always a bit scary to lose a advocacy voice. After all, there are so very few voices out there.
How many people, like me, felt a bit different after their diagnosis? How many people felt alone? How many people didn’t know where to find more information? And how many people are out there without help or without a diagnosis who are desperately searching to find out what is wrong with them? How many people are suffering and need help and aren’t receiving that help because we simply do not talk about these things?
And how many people will fail to find that lifeline if the voices we have refuse to speak?
It’s funny to me now that I used to think I was the only one around with an anxiety disorder. It’s also funny now for me to imagine that I used to think I was the only one who suffered with a mood disorder after pregnancy. The more you open up about these things, the more you will realize that you are not alone in them.
But there are many people out there who haven’t opened up and who don’t know.
And that’s where we all come in. Those of us with stories, can share them. Those of us with voices can raise them. And those of us with people around us can reach out to them.
The stigma is real. The isolation is real. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that the solution is within our grasp.
Nothing will get better and no one will feel less alone until we open our voices and tell them that they are not alone.
So what can you do? How can you raise awareness of the issues you have? How can you tell others your story if you are ready? How can you find it within yourself to take the risk?
It’s not easy to share about these trials. I know that first hand. But the realization that my troubles could help another is really the way I make sense of it all.
How about you? Do you have a story to share?