Mental illness. Many people hear the term and imagine padded walls and a straight jacket. There’s a stigma attached to the word, and many people are afraid to be labeled as mentally ill or surrounded by people who have that label. Many people avoid talking about it because it’s not something people want to think about.
Well, Jenny Maher is getting that conversation started. In her book, Never Give Up, she discusses the many challenges she’s faced in life- including her mother’s and her own mental health issues. Her mother’s mental issues were, for the most part, untreated and left Jenny and her brother in the care of the foster system for most of their childhoods.
In the system, Jenny experienced abuse. And childhood trauma doesn’t just go away. It often comes back to haunt people in the form of mental illness.
As an adult, Jenny was diagnosed with PTSD and depression, both of which are common troubles in children from abused homes. On top of that all, Jenny was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. At one point, she tried committing suicide.
Jenny didn’t let her challenges stop her from living an inspiring life. She is an advocate for many issues, especially for stopping the stigma associated with mental illness. Her journey towards mental health hasn’t been easy, but her story is an inspiration to anyone faced with challenges in life. Jenny explained why she speaks up about mental illness:
The reason I feel I need to speak out about mental illness, is because so many people suffer from it, but are afraid of reaching out because of the stigma that they’re going to be treated differently, which unfortunately is true. It’s sad that once someone is diagnosed with something as common as depression friends and/or family treat you with kid gloves, whispering behind doors because they don’t want to upset you. Worst of all when we show some emotion like anger or crying, instead of talking to us, they say we need to take a pill or go lie down.
People don’t realize sometimes mental illness is usually genetic, a chemical imbalance that just requires medication. But a lot of times (especially with depression or with people who are dealing with PTSD, it’s usually caused from the way we were raised or our experiences growing up. Those experiences have been held in so long and we don’t know how to talk about our problems. And although they say that communication is most important in a relationship, I believe it’s also patience and understanding.
We have no control over the cards we’re dealt, but we can change the deck.
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