Ten Common Myths about Mental Illness and its truths

Everyone has struggles whether it be a physical ailment or disability, a mental illness, financial issues, or other life issues.  I know many people that have struggled with some form of mental illness, some for many, many years.  What I find that all of us who struggle with mental illness have in common is that many people around us believe at least one (if not several) of these commonly held notions about mental illness. Here’s some of them, and the facts that counter these myths:

  1. MYTH: People who struggle with mental illness are “crazy.”  FACT: This is a hurtful and often, untrue characterization of people who struggle.  The fact is that many of us may be depressed and trying to overcome past traumas.  If you were in our shoes, you’d probably react similarly.  Also, we should try to refrain from using the term “crazy” to describe anyone, because it is similar to using the word “retarded” to describe something or someone who you deem “stupid.”
  2. MYTH: People who are suffering from depression, should just learn to “get over it” or “deal with things better.”  FACT:  This is also a very hurtful myth that a lot of people believe. When I am stressed at work, some people (I won’t name names) think I should “just get over it.” The fact is that people suffering from depression or other mental illnesses are often doing the best they can to do better to avoid the stigma that comes from their illness, but they can’t do it alone.  It’s not like we have an on and off switch that makes the illness go away in only one or two days. It often takes years to overcome. Otherwise, we wouldn’t struggle!  What we need is validation. What we need is understanding, someone to come along side and help us.
  3. MYTH: Taking psychiatric medication is sinful (i.e morally wrong). FACT: I don’t understand why certain people in certain religious circles believe this!  They certainly don’t typically believe this about heart medication, or medication to treat ulcers! If something is wrong with the wiring in your brain, you need to treat it somehow. Therapy doesn’t always work for this, nor is it always effective.  If you take medication for heart problems, for instance, then taking psychiatric medication should also be morally permissible, no questions asked.
  4. MYTH: People who hurt themselves (i.e self-injure) are often doing it for attention. FACT: First of all, many people I know who hurt themselves don’t want the attention. They just want to be loved and understood.  This is why in my own research, I have found that people who self-injure often hide their scars underneath clothing or other things. If they really wanted attention,  they would probably not even bother to hide anything! A lot of my friends I know who struggle with self-injury have a low sense of self-worth and may be self-injuring to relieve unbearable pain and anguish. Again, validation, love and genuine support are the keys to help them be able to stop self-harming.
  5. MYTH: When someone is considering self-harm or suicide, you should always call an ambulance so they can get the help they need. FACT: This is only true if they are actively suicidal or planning to do major self-harm.  Some (but certainly not all) people use this method as a cop-out so that they don’t have to actively support and encourage them themselves. Many people don’t know how or simply don’t really care.  Yes, it can be emotionally difficult to care for a person struggling with these deep issues, and you shouldn’t do it all alone. However, unless the person is actively considering major self-harm or being actively suicidal, calling an ambulance or sending them to the hospital, may create more problems for them in the end than good.  First of all, the mentally ill are often not treated well in hospitals, because people are afraid they will become violent or self-destructive.  However, if we took the time to try to understand and love them better, sending them to the hospital would not be needed. Also, a lot of mentally ill people are in therapy, so if you don’t have the emotional energy needed to support them, actively encourage them to talk to their therapist or doctor before they do anything harmful to themselves.
  6. MYTH: People struggling with depression or anxiety should just “get out more.” FACT: If we could, we would. The truth is these illnesses are often debilitating and disabling. This is often why it is a struggle to “get out and enjoy life.” What we need is guidance and a gradual introduction to the “real world” when we are better and are able.  What we need is encouragement and understanding from loved ones, who will be there when we want to talk about what’s going on inside our minds.
  7. MYTH: (A lot of people may believe this in one form or another, or unconsciously) People with mental illnesses are emotionally “weak” or “lazy.” FACT: This couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ve heard a lot of people imply or even say to me that because I get stressed about certain things or cry sometimes, that I am a “weak” person emotionally. The truth is that people who suffer from mental illnesses are often the ones that have had to deal with the most emotional baggage in their lives. Many have experienced abuse or bullying, or both, during some period in their lives.  Some of them have experienced deep, personal losses.  The fact that we are able to cry and “open” up shows that we are not weak, and in fact, strong and not afraid to be vulnerable to others.  Often, being able to let the feelings come out and talk about things with people, is the first step towards healing and dealing with underlying issues.
  8. MYTH: People suffering from mental illness just need therapy. FACT: Therapy can be very useful and helpful, but it is not a “one-size fits all measure” for everyone suffering from mental illness. Some people have struggled with getting the right therapist because of continuing stigma against their illness. For instance, someone who has a borderline personality might not be understood by a lot of therapists because of the commonly held notion in the medical community that they are very difficult to deal with and understand.  Also, therapy alone is often not the answer. We need not only therapy but often times medication and a strong support system to help us through the tough days.
  9. MYTH: People who suffer from mental illness are more likely to be violent, so we need to put protective measures in place. FACT: This myth irritates me more than some of the other myths out there! Yes, there may be a few mentally ill people who can get violent, but most of them are not violent at all.  To treat everyone who is mentally ill like wild animals needing to be caged is not only perpetuating this myth, but I believe it is inhumane as well.  I have heard of people being chained to their beds even though they wouldn’t hurt even a fly!  Or that they can’t enjoy music because the medical facilitators are afraid they may hurt themselves with earbuds! If one is that afraid, then watch them. Don’t suck the enjoyment out of an already bad and stressful experience for them!
  10. MYTH: Referring to people who struggle with mental illness: “It’s all in their heads.” FACT: Mental illness does not only affect people mentally but physically as well. For instance, in addition to feeling bad mentally,  people with clinical depression often don’t eat or sleep well, can have headaches, cramps, or an upset stomach, or feel much more physically exhausted than usual. (source: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-symptoms-causes#1).  Also, people with anxiety disorders often experience physical ailments as well, such as sweaty palms, palpitations, nausea, dry mouth, shortness of breath, and sleeping problems. (source: http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/anxiety-disorders#1-3 )

These are just some of the commonly-held myths about people suffering from mental illness. I think we need to remove stigma about these illnesses and treat everyone, including people afflicted with mental illness, with more love and compassion.  What are other myths you have noticed people believing about mental illness? What can we do to dispel them? Please feel free to discuss in comments. Absolutely NO disparaging comments or your comment will be deleted! Thank you.

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Patriotic edition: 5 Things I’m Thankful For and 5 things we could improve

DISCLAIMER: Please no disparaging or disrespectful comments about me (the writer), different political views, or others in this blog. Also, please no arguing about political stuff here. This is not the place to do it! If you break any of these rules, your comment or comments will be deleted. Thank you and happy reading. : )

In honor of the 4th of July, the Independence Day of the United States of America, I will discuss five things I am immensely thankful for that this country provides, and five things we as a nation could improve on. I am honored and thankful to be born in this country and to be able to enjoy many of the freedoms this country provides for me today.  However, I know this country is not perfect and that it has a lot of problems and issues, which I will delve into later.  Regardless, I am thankful God put me here not only to be successful for myself and my loved ones but also to help others.

Five Things I am thankful for in the U.S.A

  1. religious freedom–I can be any religion I want to be and be able to worship freely without fear of being sent to jail or tortured for my faith. I happen to be a Christian, but I see others of different faiths, having similar freedoms to me.  This is not true in many other countries. I hear and know of people being jailed, tortured, or even killed just for practicing their faith. For example, in North Korea, in general,  if you practice publically any religion other than the state religion, you are put in prison and tortured until you submit to their faith.  This is a freedom we Americans should all be thankful for and keep preserving for the next generations.
  2. freedom of speech–Here in the States, in general, I can openly criticize my local government, state government, and even federal government, including the President and Vice President,  without fear of losing my job, going to prison, or being tortured or killed for that.  I can even stage a protest against the government’s policies, if I wanted to, without getting arrested or jailed just for doing so.  I am very grateful I can do that openly or even publically, without fear of being arrested or losing my livelihood for doing so.  In many other countries, if you openly criticize governmental policies or the leader of the country, you will be arrested and jailed for doing so. A few nations even kill their own people for protesting against their government or their policies!
  3. Adequate water supply- We, as a nation, are extremely blessed by our many bodies of water!  In general, 90% of the country, can turn on the faucet and water comes out. This is not true at all in many parts of the world! Some parts of the world don’t even have faucets or clean, running water! In many parts of the world, people must carry buckets of water from miles away from their home, just to get enough water to live! In many cases, the water isn’t even completely clean or as pure, as it is in the States!  I see some people here in the States just running the faucet without using the water that comes out of it. What a waste! Think of the people that don’t have any water near their homes.  Try to appreciate that you are able to have clean, running water, and don’t take this for granted.
  4. A strong and courageous military force — We, as a nation, are blessed to have men and women who are willing to risk their lives to defend our country and its freedoms. I know several veterans personally and am thankful to know them.  I am grateful for them and all military personnel because many of the people who are or were in the military have to go through not only grueling training to help them prepare for the battlefield, not to mention the horrors and the heartaches of war and losing your comrades, but when they come back to civilian life, they are often underappreciated and/or forgotten.  You may not agree with the principles of war, and that’s fine, but the fact that these men and women are standing up for our freedoms and protecting us from terrorists and other evil people, is something for which we should be immensely thankful.
  5. The right to defend ourselves against invaders or intruders.–We, as a nation, are blessed to have the Second Amendment, in case someone tries to kill or attack us, and the police can’t or won’t do anything about it for whatever reasons.  Now, I would personally never own a gun, but for those that do, I respect them, especially if they live in high-crime areas or are in situations where they feel legitimately physically threatened or unsafe.  In 90% of the countries that I’ve ever visited or heard about, it is illegal for private citizens to own a gun or any form of defense, even if they do feel their lives are at risk. I do think there should be gun control laws, but I think the basic right for United States’ citizens who are law-abiding and will use a gun responsibly should never be abolished.

5 things the U.S could do better

  1. Respecting people with different political persuasions.—There has been so much strife in this country just because Trump was elected. Sure, he has his issues, and you don’t have to like him, but hating him or people that agree with his policies, will not solve any of our nation’s problems!  I was very saddened by a man who shot several people who were playing baseball for charity just because some of them didn’t agree with this man’s political ideas!  I see many people on Facebook and Twitter just taking jabs at people because of their political views. If we want to be united as a nation, we cannot keep doing this! Yes, there are many people who hold views that I don’t personally agree with, both politically and religiously.  That does not give me the right to personally attack them, either with my words or my actions. This, in my opinion, is no longer “freedom of speech,” it’s being a jerk!
  2. Taking care of the poor.–I know many people here in the States, both online and offline, who are struggling just to get by.  Some of you may be thinking that these people should “just get a job.” First of all, it’s not that easy! It takes an average of five or six months to get a decent job for most people, and some it can take years, and yes, they are actively looking too!  I’ve been there.  Also, some people are disabled and can’t work! Either they have severe mental problems, or they are physically unable to work.  Finally, even if the poor do get a job, how many jobs do they have to get to have a living wage, and be able to spend time with the ones that matter to them most.  Two? Three? Five? It’s so difficult these days to even find one job. let alone several! And where would even an average, able-bodied person find the time and energy to work, let’s say,  four jobs to support themselves and family, and still have time to spend adequate time and energy to spend with their loved ones outside of work? I’m not saying that an abled bodied person should just mooch off the government and not to do anything with their lives at all. I’m saying that we should do our part to take care of the poor and hurting, because it’s the right thing to do, and you never know what struggles and hurts another human being is going through. So, unless you are God or know everything about someone, try not to judge them! In fact, in several places, Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.”
  3. Loving immigrants .—Unless you are a Native American, you have no right to judge who should or shouldn’t be in this country.  Yes, it is upsetting to some people when people come here illegally and don’t pay taxes.  However, hating them and/or treating them like commodities instead of human beings with felt needs isn’t going to solve anything. I understand that a few people who have come into this country have done criminal activities or committed hateful acts of terrorism, but a.) This isn’t the majority of immigrants. Most are families coming here to better their lives because of all the freedoms and opportunities we have here. b.) There are criminals that are American-born citizens too!  So singling out immigrants as perpetrators of criminal acts is not only unfair, it is often untrue as well!
  4. Loving people who are different than us.–In the past two years, there has been much strife because some people aren’t willing to accept or love people who are different than them. For example, a few years ago, a white supremacist murdered several black Christians worshipping God, during a Bible study, in Charleston, South Carolina, just because they were black! I mean these Christians didn’t even do anything to hurt this guy, and he still shot at them!  How sad! Of course, the majority of Americans are not as mean and racist as he was, but we all would do well to look in the mirror sometimes and make sure we don’t even have a trace of hatred for people different than us! This doesn’t only include being free from racism (and not being prejudiced against other ethnicities) but also loving people regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, disability, religious beliefs, or any other human identifier.  Loving them doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they may do or stand for, but it does mean being willing to be there for them and comfort them if another person hurts them, and it means actively trying to help them find joy and meaning in their lives.
  5. Thinking of others before ourselves.–This is especially true if you are in a position of leadership in the U.S  government.  I saw a government official on T.V enjoying the beach he closed to the public because of a lack of funds. I have several issues with this. First of all, if the beach is closed to the public, you and your family should not be enjoying it either! It’s only fair. Second of all, if you want to enjoy the beach with your family, and there are not enough funds to keep it open, a public servant should take it upon him or herself to finance it so that everyone could enjoy the beach, and not just you and your loved ones.  If you are in any position of leadership, be it in the government, or in a school or in a workplace, you should always think of others before yourself. For instance, if you are a manager, you shouldn’t just cut hours or lay off people just so you can save money for yourself or people like you.  Think of others first!

These are the five things I am immensely thankful for in this country, and five things we can improve.  What are five things you are thankful for if you live in the U.S (or if you live in another country–what are you most thankful for there?)? What things can be improved in your country? Please feel free to comment respectfully on this.

The Value of Hard Work (and a caution about ableism)

DISCLAIMER: In this post, I will write about the rewards of diligence in every aspect of our lives, what I learned, and caution about ableism, which means discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.

Yes, there is a place and time for a “break” or to get “lazy,” but I have found that there are great rewards for being diligent in life. Being diligent to me, does not have to constitute working a full time job, having a family to feed and support, and volunteering at the soup kitchen, all in the course of a week!  But it does constitute of giving our best of what God has given us each day, whether with our time, talents, or treasure.

During the time when I didn’t have a job, I found that I was often depressed and thinking about things that I shouldn’t have. Yes, I had more time with family and friends, and that was good. The problem was not that I didn’t have a job, but that I felt like I was making little difference in other people’s lives, even my family and friends , with who I spent time. However, when we don’t have an aim or purpose in life (even if we do have a full time or part time job), it is very easy to get depressed and hopeless about life. I’m not saying that having a job has cured “everything,” or that having a job is the cure to depression. It’s absolutely not, as I will discuss later. However, I am saying that when we have a reason to  live, any reason at all, things are easier to deal with.

For me,  having a job at the current place I’m working now, has brought me rewards that I could have never anticipated from God. God has not only graciously provided me with income, but also a purpose everyday in which I could make a positive difference in the lives of not just customers, but also co-workers, managers, and other staff there. That, to me, is the greatest reward one could have of working diligently. But you don’t have to have a job to be diligent in your life. I know several people who are too disabled to work, but have through their words of encouragement and validation, made others’ and also my life a brighter place in which to live! It may not seem like much to society, but to those who are suffering or who are otherwise in need of encouragement, it could mean saving their  lives! Also, these people have often used every ounce of their emotional energy (read: spoons-for more on that see this site:spoon theory)they have! And that, to me, not only is displaying diligence in their lives, but also sacrifice.

So we must be careful not to judge an entire person’s worth on what they can do, but we must also make sure we are seizing opportunities in life the best we can with what we are given. This can mean anything from encouraging others, working hard at our jobs (if we work), and giving our time and treasure, and displaying our talents, to those around us, not only so we get the rewards, but to make a positive contribution to the world around us.