Opinion: Why mental illness isn't something to be ashamed of

By Summer Bickley | April 10, 2017 4:35pm


Photo Courtesy of Summer Bickley

Last month I was hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

I’m not unfamiliar with depression, but this was significantly worse than anything I had experienced in recent years. Thanks to an adverse reaction to an antibiotic, I couldn’t take my antidepressant without vomiting, and my mental state went downhill very quickly.

I tried to ignore these dark and intrusive thoughts, but they got so bad that I decided to call my mom, who helped me find a nearby hospital that could help for my specific situation. I recovered quickly and was released in 24 hours to the care of my support system.

With these ideations gone, I would have loved to put my hospital stay behind me. Instead, my anxiety skyrocketed as my depression lessened.

Who do I tell about this? And how? Should my family, friends, co workers and professors be told? How much do I need to share with people?

I was so overwhelmed with these questions and how much work I would need to make up as soon as I left the hospital. I was released from the hospital at 11:30 a.m., but was afraid to tell anyone that I still went to my 1:35 p.m. class. Reintegrating back into the ‘normal’ world from an isolated mental health facility is not as easy as it sounds.

When I started to tell people, I got mixed reactions. Most were supportive – my friends have been incredibly reassuring, and my professors have been especially understanding. However, some people have treated me differently, as though I’m fragile or dangerous.

It’s hard to handle people I am close to seeing my differently because of my mental disabilities – and I do consider my anxiety and depression to be disabilities. However, because of my anxiety and its impact on my self-perception, I don’t see my disabilities as comparable to physical disabilities.

I often think that my anxiety is just me “overreacting” and “being emotional.” After all, if everyone else can deal with the same problems, why can’t I just get over it?

I wish I wasn’t embarrassed by my recent hospitalization.

I wouldn’t feel this way if I had been hospitalized for a physical condition, but mental illness is seen differently than physical illness. Using crutches and elevators for physical injuries is okay, but asking for an extension when I’m so depressed that I’m suicidal and I can’t get out of bed isn’t. I was scared to ask for the help I needed.

It’s hard to not be ashamed talking about it, but I’m trying.

I have realized that I’m not going to get any better by keeping this all to myself, and my hope is that by putting my story out there, other people can feel less isolated and more confident in sharing their experiences.

If you’re in a similar place, it’s okay to reach out for help in whatever form you need. You are cared for – just find someone you trust to talk to. I’m so glad I did.

Summer Bickley is a junior organizational communication and spanish double major and she can be reached at bickley18@up.edu.