I’ve always said, and truly believed, that mental illness has no stigma compared to physical illness. However, recently I’ve experienced symptoms that can have either a physical or a mental cause. I didn’t hesitate to schedule appointments for various tests to determine a physical cause, but when the neurologist suggested I see a psychiatrist, I resisted. I decided to wait until I complete the imaging and other exams that might reveal a physical cause, and only if no physical cause can be found will I schedule a psychiatric evaluation.
Why is a psychiatric evaluation more frightening than MRIs and EEGs? I’ve tried to determine why I so immediately and vigorously denied the possibility that I have a mental, rather than a physical, illness. It seems that what frightens me so much is that physical disease does not change my personality. I’m still the same person, just the same person with diabetes or fibromyalgia or COPD or kidney disease. But mental illness may change the essence of who I am. My behavior may change; my ability to show my love for family and friends may lessen; my control of my own actions may vanish.
What I said to loved ones after my neurology appointment reveals my reaction. “I don’t have Parkinson’s,” I said. “I’m just crazy!” Praise God that the neurologist ruled out Parkinson’s as a cause of my symptoms. Now I’m praying that the cause is something that is curable or at least treatable.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This year’s theme is #MoreThanEnough.
It’s an opportunity for all of us to come together and remember the inherent value we each hold — no matter our diagnosis, appearance, socioeconomic status, background or ability. We want every person out there to know that if all you did was wake up today, that’s more than enough. No matter what, you are inherently worthy of more than enough life, love and healing. Showing up, just as you are, for yourself and the people around you is more than enough.NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
Everyone, regardless of health, social status, prior history, or anything else that limits ability and stigmatizes, is worthy and valuable. We are created in the image of God, and we reflect our perfect Creator. The idea that I might have a mental illness made me feel “less than,” and I regret that knee-jerk reaction. I’m embarrassed that I, at least temporarily, believed the lie that if I have a mental illness, I am not enough, not good enough, not worthy enough. I am equally valuable whether my symptoms are caused by mental illness or physical illness. Of course, I need appropriate treatment to eliminate or alleviate the symptoms, but whether I have physical illness or mental illness, I am worthy and valuable as a child of God, created in the image of my Maker.
Last year, I wrote about mental health awareness from the standpoint of someone who has never had personal experience, though I have several loved ones who have some form of mental illness. This year is different. Whatever the cause of my symptoms turns out to be, this experience had given me a different perspective, a very personal one.
I hope you aren’t touched by mental illness, but if you are, you will find resources on mental health at the National Institute of Mental Health. And remember, you are #MoreThanEnough.