End the stigma with mental illnesses

Kate Rehwinkel, Staff Reporter

I was recently told by someone that my mental illnesses are “all in my head” and that if I tried hard enough they would go away.

First, I would like to say that that comment is completely false, but it is still believed by many people who are uneducated about the topic. The person who said that did get one thing right, though. Mental illness truly is all in my head.

Mental illnesses are primarily caused by brain dysfunction or chemical imbalances. The human brain is so complex that there is constant research going on to see how mental illnesses form in the brain, how the changes affect people and how to best treat the symptoms.

I have suffered from a mood disorder not otherwise specified (MD-NOS), severe anxiety, generalized anxiety and depression since I was around the age of 9, but I had symptoms since age 5. The one I deal with most is my anxiety.

Most of my friends are supportive. Some get annoyed because they believe I’m too dramatic with my anxiety, when in reality my drama level seems to be directly related to how bad the anxiety makes me feel. Little do people know that there are some days when my anxiety is so bad that even breathing is a struggle. Yet I try to push through it and act as if nothing is wrong.

There are also times when I panic too quickly, or have panic attacks, but I work my butt off every day trying to cope with it better than I did the day before.

Sometimes I wish my friends would understand that all of this isn’t my fault and that I do my best to hide it around them and others. I don’t want people’s pity, I want people to understand mental illnesses.

College is stressful for everyone, but it is definitely more stressful for someone who already has anxiety. College is a privilege and I’m glad I have the opportunity to go, but sometimes it just mentally drains me.

I am an advocate for having mental illnesses, and it is nothing to shy away from in society. I am not embarrassed to admit I have them, and I don’t believe anyone else should be either. However, the last thing someone who suffers from anxiety or other mental illnesses needs is to live in fear that their secret will become known and their life will be destroyed.

Unfortunately, my anxiety will never go away. I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that can only be treated with medication. I was born with it, and I will die with it. I have no choice but to live with it every day. I am inspired when I meet others who suffer as I do, because they are some of the strongest and most reliable people I know. They also remind me that I am strong, even on my bad days.

Kate Rehwinkel is a junior management major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].