Anxiety, depression, and a variety of other illnesses plague millions of people worldwide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five people suffers from some sort of mental illness.
Gen Z has been named “the most depressed generation,” but through the years, work to destigmatize mental illness has made them the most likely to get treatment.
Learning how to help others deal with their mental health is more important than ever.
To understand mental illness, we have to understand what causes it. While trauma may be the most evident cause of mental illness, genetics and brain chemistry have an impact as well. For example, I have bipolar disorder because it runs in my family. My other mental illnesses come from childhood trauma.
As someone who suffers from four mental illnesses, I think I’ve heard it all. I’ve been told to “just get over” my trauma, “let it go,” and “forgiveness will free you”. Society still sees people with mental illnesses as lesser. These are things we would never say to someone with the flu or any other physical illness. So why do we say it to people with mental illnesses?
By saying these things, not only do we invalidate the trauma people have experienced, but we force them to question themselves and their emotions. This is why so many victims blame themselves for their abuse and this is why the healing process takes so long.
There are many people out there who believe one can never truly fully heal from their trauma because of the stigma and the blame.
Healing from trauma, much like healing from a physical injury, cannot be rushed. A lot of therapists hear “how long is therapy gonna take?” from new patients. We have to trust someone to share our trauma with them because of all the judgment we face. We can’t just share every single detail of our trauma in our first therapy session. This is why most trauma victims spend years or sometimes their entire lives in therapy learning how to cope throughout their daily lives.
After dealing with trauma, we spend our entire lives trying to feel better and not feel like we could have prevented our trauma. We adopt so many unhealthy coping mechanisms as a way to deal with our emotions. Then we struggle to find healthy coping mechanisms that truly help us recover and deal with our emotional pain.
Even after the abuse ends, the nightmares continue.
While we may be out of the abusive situation, the nightmares, the flashbacks, and the anxiety continue for the rest of our lives. We continue to fear our trauma no matter how distant we are from the event.
Childhood trauma has also been associated with mental illness more frequently than trauma we may experience as an adult. Why is that? As a child, our minds are developing and how we experience the world is how we will see it and react to it as an adult.
If we’re experiencing a lot of anxiety and depression in our childhood, that will translate into adulthood. Speaking from experience, it has been so much harder to get over my childhood trauma than the adulthood trauma. My childhood trauma became such a formative part of who I am and my entire existence.
So please, it’s so much more complicated than that. Our trauma drives who we are, no matter how much we don’t want it to. Though we’re not hateful, we’re also not forgiving. We are holding the people who hurt us accountable and learning from the past as a way to protect ourselves from being hurt again.
We got tired of proving ourselves worthy to others and chose ourselves and our own happiness. If that means we have to remove some people from our circle, that decision should be respected.
For most, it’s the first time in our lives we have told someone “no,” and that is such a powerful and meaningful part of our healing. Instead of loving others more than ourselves, we chose to give ourselves the time and love we deserved.
Don’t tell us to “let it go.” While there may be good in every person, that doesn’t mean that the things a person has done to hurt me are any less painful and traumatic.
Reminding myself of that pain is how I survive. It’s how I learned that I deserve more and I will always deserve more. Remembering is what made me stronger; I did that.
I made myself stronger, not my abuser.
I did all those things for myself despite what they’ve done to me. And I’m a better, more understanding, and empathetic person because of it.