Mental Illness: Why is it so Hard to Talk About It?

Growing Up With The Stigma

I grew up in a small town in California, was a first-generation American, and had many questions about everything.

I was always curious about people. People and their stories, what they think about, what makes them click. One of the things I really liked learning about was stories about murder and serial killers. It was fascinating to try and figure out why they did the things they did. I dove deep as a child, thinking it was essential to see the patterns and motives that led them to commit the heinous crimes they committed. But this isn’t about that.

It started off with the day I was reading these books in front of my family, especially in front of my great aunts and uncles, and they would tell me I needed to stop reading about those crazy people; it was unhealthy for me, and I needed to find a new hobby. They told me to switch up my reading and pick up the bible. It was funny, really, because once I set down my book, they would go off and tell a story about someone they knew in the past.

It was the first time I heard of such a thing: Mental Illness.

The stories always started off with a person they knew that was a bit odd to most. “Did you hear about her? Well, I knew she was crazy because she would talk to herself. Yes! She would! I would catch her talking to herself in her room, or she would swear someone was talking to her! Yeah, she was really creepy. I have not seen her in years, but I am sure her family keeps her locked away because she would scare people. How embarrassing. Poor girl, but sometimes that’s life.”

Stories like it would not only be said to me by my family but at school, work, friends, and by strangers at a park. All over, I would hear stories of the “Crazy People” they encountered in their lives. I would see it all over the internet. I was surrounded by it so much that I, too, started to believe it.

In the traditional Mexican household I grew up in, it was something we did not talk about. We did not “believe” in mental illness. It was not real. It was something that we swept under the rug and did not talk about, not even amongst each other. It was all told through whispers and never in a normal conversation because it was that much of a hard thing to talk about. I saw it within my family, but whenever I would try and speak about it, I would be shut down almost immediately and called not-so-nice names to discourage me from ever bringing it up again. It was the “dirty family secret,” and everyone knew about it. It was just the big purple elephant in the room.

When I was first diagnosed with Depression in my teenage years, someone in my family would tell me that I should not take my medications because I would grow dependent on them and would soon not be able to live without them. I would grow scared about taking my medications, thinking they might be right and that I would be ruining my own future with all the medications I would take.

In schools, the child who acts up is “a child who was not spanked hard enough” and needed a good “ass whooping.” The “Back-in-MY-Day” people would always put in their two cents, and my childhood self would believe that maybe we were getting too soft. I would hear it often at the grocery store when a child is screaming their little heads off and the embarrassed parent doing what they can to calm the child down. It took me a while to see that those children are more likely to suffer from something more than just a bad day. Mental illness is a lot more complex than just having a bad day. I wish I had known that way back when. It was easier to dismiss the issue back then and to bully the “different” out of them. Well, in my opinion, anyway.

What I Thought All of That Meant

Honest to everything I hold true, I thought people like me did not belong in this world. I was scared to even acknowledge that I had nightmares, panic attacks, and thoughts of suicide as a child because I was afraid to be more different than I already was. I was already bullied about things out of my control, but I thought I could control the things my mind would have me believe. It was scary to think that the people I would call friends would bully people for being a little out of the norm. I always wondered what they would think of me if the truth came out that I, too, have the same tendencies and only let out my true self at home?

My mother could be driving to the store, and I would secretly hope we would get into a car accident and it would all be over. I hoped that I would die and that would be the end of me. I would look at everyday mundane things and wish that a freak accident would happen to me and I would be gone and forgotten. I would have this morbid sense of humor and make jokes that death was just something I looked forward to, and I learned quickly that it did not sit right with people.

In the mornings, I would give myself the pep talk in front of the mirror that it would be a good day. I took my deep morning breaths, trying to prepare myself to go to school and see all the everyday people again. To play the game again. To hide me under the mask that they thought was Norma. I was genuinely myself, but I always pretended to be this happy cartoon that made jokes about herself to beat anyone to it so they couldn’t make fun of me without me doing it first. It really messed me up because I started to believe that maybe we were all genuinely faking it, and we all felt the same way under our fake selves and really genuinely hated our lives. The routine was down to a science by the age of fourteen. Norma was the person I made up; some people saw right through that, but most seemed to buy it.

Then, it got weird.

One morning, it was “cool” to be depressed. Everything I knew about ‘faking it’ went out the window, and now I was stuck trying to figure out how to fit in all over again. Some days I let out too much of myself, and some days, I seemed like I, too, was faking being depressed. My identity and my thoughts were a jumbled mess. What was okay? What wasn’t anymore?

It was all a complete mess.

My Diagnosis

I remember the day I was diagnosed. I could not hide it any longer. Not from my friends or family.

I was looking at my beat-up shoes and trying to keep my composure when the Doctor asked me how I was feeling.

The appointment was initially for my after-natal care and how I was holding up being a young 16-year-old mother. I knew caring for my own children was hard, which was not what I expected. The baby crying and needing me was not hard for me. The lack of sleep did not help, but I was happy to care for my newborn. It was when the baby was asleep. I was staring at her peacefully asleep, and all I could think about was that she needed a better mom and I should just shoot myself in the head.

All those years when I was so stressed out about the most minor things in the world, I would scream into a pillow and wildly ruffle my hair in frustration because the anxiety would not leave my body. All the pages upon pages of dark art I would put on paper and the dark things I would read to find comfort. I never told a soul about all the weird stuff because I was afraid of myself. I knew I was “crazy,” and I did not want to make my life harder.

But I was so weak. I was so mentally tired of fighting to be ‘normal.’ I was tired of pretending it was all OK and telling myself to ‘suck it up.’ I wanted all the dark thoughts to go away. I wanted to be OK with public speaking. I wanted to have a normal conversation and not feel like a burden to people. I tried to stop the lies that I was doing just fine. I wanted someone to hold me and tell me, “You are OK. This is all OK. You will be fine.”

I looked to the Doctor, burst into tears, and let out all the feelings built up over the years. I told him how I constantly wanted to end my life. I felt useless to the world, and there was no place for me. I was a psycho. I was crazy. I kept telling him, “Who the heck thinks like that?!”

He did not say anything and let me vent it all out and cry. I cried harder than ever before in front of another human being. (That was the day I knew my Doctor needed a raise and more appreciation, as he deals with a lot on a day-to-day basis).

I eventually got up and sobbed on his chest, and hugged him. I was not a hugger, I always pretended to be, but I really hated hugs. But, on that day, I really needed one. I hugged him so tight and close, and he gently hugged me back and told me all the words I wanted someone in my life to say to me. I never knew how much I needed to hear those words from someone; it was one of the feelings I will never forget. The heavyweight lifted off my body, and I felt tired like one feels after a long battle, and I felt like I could finally rest.

I said it.

I finally said it.

I said all of the things I had kept secret for so long.

He wrote a few things on his notepad and gave me a pep talk, telling me that this is most likely postpartum Depression, but he feels like I should talk to a therapist just in case this could be more because I told him I felt this way for years.

A therapist.

A mother fucking therapist?

No.

I tried to tell him it was unnecessary and that I would be OK eventually. Insisting it was probably postpartum Depression, I would just do what he suggested and be on my way. My Doctor stopped me and told me that he suggested I get a second opinion and to make sure I tell them what I told him because they are more equipped to help me better as he was an OBGYN and not s therapist himself.

Later that day, I was sent to a Turning Point facility in the next city over, and I told the woman in front of me all the things I had said. She wrote so many things down. “What about now? Do you feel like you want to hurt yourself now?”

“All the time.”

She wrote more things down, and the next thing she told me made me wish I had not said anything.

“I think we need to send you to a place where we can work on your mental health. I know you breastfeed. I hope you can breast pump because baby cannot come with you to the behavioral health hospital…”

Everything went in slow motion, and I wanted to vomit.

Behavioral Health Hospital?

Baby cannot come with me?

I started to protest, but the therapist apologized, “I hope you know that we are trying to help you. Maybe taking a break from everyday life can help you cope and understand the things you are feeling.” And with that, I never saw the lady again, and I waited in a room full of toys and crayons for 2 hours. I remember looking at a wall, thinking, ‘What have I done?’

My family, waiting for me in the car during that time, was told to gather some of my belongings and a week’s worth of clothes as I would be sent to a mental health hospital near San Francisco, CA.

After Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with Severe Depression, Anxiety, and Post Partum Depression at the Hospital.

I will write about the hospital in another post because there is a lot I want to talk about during my stay there.

But it was hard for me to accept.

It is still hard for me.

Back then, it took me months to come to terms with the fact that my feelings were more than just normal feelings but an actual illness that clouded my thoughts.

Why is it still hard for me?

Back in March of 2022, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

I had a mental breakdown after all the stress from work; it caused me to lose my pregnancy.

It was honestly my rock bottom.

I screamed and lost it at home and told myself I needed to relax and go to the hospital. I needed to get medical help and stop messing around. I have seen this song and dance before. I knew I needed to seek professional help before I let my dark thoughts win.

The miscarriage caused me to have an endometriosis flare, and ended up in the hospital anyway, and I cried and cried in silence.

The doctor returned and told me to talk to my primary doctor and suggested I leave my job.

I went to my primary doctor, and he, too, thought I should leave my job and mentioned that I have all the symptoms of bipolar disorder. I knew that this time around, I should be completely honest about what I was feeling and not hold anything back if I wanted the right help and treatment.

I was sent to see a psychiatrist and counselor in town, and after a few sessions, it was all true. I was diagnosed, and I left the sessions in a numb state.

It was 2011 all over again.

I had to come to terms with Bipolar.

This one was harder to swallow.

Later in the year, I was diagnosed with ADHD.

I heard about the bad stigma that comes with bipolar. Depression and Anxiety were one thing, and it seems like most of the population suffer from it. It seems more common, and I came to grips with the fact because it seemed normal. “It could be worse!”

Well, it was. It always was. I went most of my adult years misdiagnosed. I took the wrong meds, which drove me to hypomania, and made pretty stupid decisions throughout the years. It explained so much. All those years, I could not focus in school, and I could not get out of bed for a few days. I had to force myself out of bed and tell myself I needed to pay bills. The bills are not going to pay themselves. Then there were days I was too spontaneous and made rash decisions and ended up with the consequences afterward.

What are the brief definitions of the Mental Illnesses I am diagnosed with?

The google definition of Depression is: Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

The google definition of Anxiety is: Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal reaction to stress. For example, you might feel anxious when faced with a difficult problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision.

The google definition of ADHD is: ADHD often begins in childhood and can persist into adulthood. It may contribute to low self-esteem, troubled relationships, and difficulty at school or work. Symptoms include limited attention and hyperactivity. Treatments include medication and talk therapy.

The google definition of Bipolar is: A disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.
The exact cause of the bipolar disorder isn’t known, but a combination of genetics, environment and altered brain structure, and chemistry may play a role.
Manic episodes may include symptoms such as high energy, reduced need for sleep, and loss of touch with reality. Depressive episodes may include symptoms such as low energy, low motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. Mood episodes last days to months at a time and may also be associated with suicidal thoughts.
Treatment is usually lifelong and often involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

These are just google definitions, I could go on and on about them, but I am not a professional. I do not want to give any false information until I am all in trying to explain everything correctly.

What have I learned about Mental Illness?

Almost everyone has some form of something. It is, in fact, normal to have a mental illness because it is pretty common; people just do not talk about it (from my own experience). Some cases are mild or are more severe than others. There are coping mechanisms, treatments, medications, therapy, and so many other resources out there that you can reach out to and get help. If you have any symptoms and want to check if you suffer from a mental illness, please speak to your doctor and do not lie or wait. It could save your life.

And it is VERY, VERY IMPORTANT TO FIND A DOCTOR WHO WILL LISTEN TO YOU! Especially after working at a funeral home, I learned that some doctors really suck and you gotta do your own research to find a good one who will listen to your concerns. Only YOU know YOU, and if you feel like your doctor is NOT listening to you, please do yourself the favor and find one who gives you proper explanations of your questions and care. Get a second opinion, always.

Therapists need therapists. Doctors seek mental help. Teachers, your boss, your neighbor, your friends, etc. Loads of people, and some are more honest about it than others. It is okay to not feel fine all the time. Our brains are powerful and can fatigue themselves. We need to take care of our brains, our well-being, and our health because, as much as we do not see it sometimes, we have this life to live, and it is full of possibilities. Take it from someone who also is trapped in her own mind; you can find yourself in a place where you find your peace and where you can actually enjoy life.

My Mission

I want to talk about it.

All of it.

The good. The bad. And all the ugly in between.

I want to talk about it, where it sometimes sounds painful to read/hear. I want to normalize it.

Mental health is something that should be talked about often in our homes, schools, and among each other.

I want the world to know how important it is to understand one another and not to push it under the rug because people are SUFFERING. People are DYING. One of the reasons why it was hard to swallow was the mortality rate. All those times I tried to commit suicide and dreamt about my death are something I wish I had talked about more with professionals who could help me instead of being scared for many years. I wish I never hid it. I wish I had been braver before speaking my truth, but I feared the backlash.

There are people around the world who have no choice but to suffer in silence because their culture, society, religion, way of life, etc. do not recognize mental illness, and people live in fear of being found out about it. The bullying, the social conflicts, etc. could be more detrimental than seeking help in some parts of the world.

I spoke to someone today about how they would be shunned from home and fired from their job if people found out they had a mental illness and were taking medications to help treat it.

How terrible is that?

I am here, free to speak about it, and people are in hiding, living in their own personal hell because it would be far worse if they tried to get help and support for their mental illness. They have no voice. They do not have many resources to help them live with it, and suicide seems to be the answer to their daily struggle.

No.

We need to do better.

We need to be better.

I have not been silent on my personal online social media about the mental health problems we have. Some programs can help, but THEY ARE EXPENSIVE. The United States has a HORRIBLE Health Care System, and we need to do better. I want to remind people how important mental health programs are to society. THEY ARE ESSENTIAL.

Just because you cannot SEE the illness does not mean it is not a REAL ILLNESS.

It is so crippling that people live in their homes and do not dare see the light of day. There are people who live in bed for days. They cannot care for themselves. It is heartwrenching.

The masses are told that so many issues are tied to mental illness, and people want to blame mental illness. I want to say to those people…THEN WHY ARE WE NOT FUNDING A BETTER MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM?! WHY IS THERE NOT REAL OUTREACH FOR THOSE WHO CAN NOT AFFORD IT?!

The long wait times on the suicide hotlines are upsetting.

It is literally for everyone.

If you want to blame mental illness for mass shootings, people murdering people, suicide, robbery, etc., then let us find a solution to the problem and help those that need to be helped.

The number of students who went to college for Psychology and counseling that are left without a job or low-paying/underfunded jobs because the government does not believe it is a big issue is just ridiculous.

Shame on them.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

Do better.

What can you do?

Speak out about it.

Talk about it.

When you are faced with people bullying another person for any reason, especially about their mental health, please stand up and do/say something about it.

Shut down the conversations of “Suck it up!” “Back in my day!” people and address that it is important to let the other person speak and how important it is that we listen and understand that it could be more than just “a bad day.”

It could save a life.

Be the friend that your friends reach out to for support. Be their ear to vent. Listen to them and help lead them to help and encourage them to keep fighting. Remind them they are more than their illness and that they can overcome anything. Be their support through their journey.

Be an advocate. Call your city/state representatives and voice your concerns about the lack of care and funding the mental health care system has. Ask them to open up jobs and give the people with the degrees the chance to put what they went to school and debt for into good use.

Hopefully, this will cause a ripple effect. One can only hope that other countries can see how important it is to fund such programs and to help end the stigma. Help those who are in a harder place to be able to even speak about it.

Help save a life.

You never know what someone is going through.

I know we all have problems, so why not make it less hard on the people who literally fight their own minds daily?

Thank you for Listening

I do get passionate about this as it is my everyday truth, and I have to live with all that it comes with.

Again, these are my truths and my journey. This is not how it is for everyone.

I am in therapy now, and it is so dang expensive! I need it to function and to help me through the good and bad days. I am having good days more often because of it, and I am still trying to figure out medications.

I am starting my series back up again. Project Norma has always been important to me because it is a reminder we can all be better humans; we just gotta keep trying every day.

I will write about all of my ugly and beautiful truths. If you care to join in and read the journey, know that I will post an update about the journey every Weekend. Writing about it is my coping mechanism, and I hope it helps anyone who also likes knowing they are not alone in this struggle.

My everyday video updates are on my Instagram: paranormalnormablog (The link is pinned to the Homepage on the top as well as my other social media).

Remember to always support one another and give love when you are able to.

I hope you all have a beautiful week!

See you guys soon!

(Remember, I am not a professional. I am just an average girl with lots on her mind. Please seek help from a professional if you need to. Much love and Light!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: