Mental health awareness

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  • Hanscom Air Force Base
What do you think of when you hear the words mental illness? A huge majority of people would think negatively about mental health illness. People that suffer from mental health illness or disorders are sometimes told from family and friends to "just get over it." Why is that? If someone has diabetes would you just tell that person to get over it? No, you would never say that.

Unfortunately because there is not enough awareness in mental health illness, people don't know how to react or how to treat someone suffering from a mental health illness because they are misinformed and think that you are "crazy" and make you feel ashamed.

Many people suffering from mental illness do not seek treatment because of the negative connotations associated with it. I decided to write this article because I don't think there is enough awareness on mental health issues. I am sharing my personal story because I want to share the truths about mental illness and hopefully give strength to those people that may be suffering and need to seek help.

I am a 36 year-old active duty technical sergeant and I have been diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder, major depression and anxiety. I had my first bout of depression after I had my daughter 11 years ago. I was very depressed and I knew something wasn't quite right. I was having a hard time dealing with everyday tasks. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep. I said to my parents that I was going to go to the clinic to get some help and their response was "you don't need to do that, you just have the baby blues. You will get over it." I am thankful that I didn't listen to them and I did get the help I needed. I was put on an anti-depressant medication and it worked.

Since then I have suffered many bouts of depression and anxiety. I would also go through cycles of extreme highs that included feeling like I was on top of the world and shopping and spending large amounts of money. I would excessively clean my house and have little sleep. I was also easily agitated. I would snap at my husband and then be fine the next minute. I always thought this was normal.

This past January I had a mental breakdown, I had thoughts of suicide I was so depressed. I couldn't get myself out of bed. I knew that I needed help so I talked to my husband and we went to the clinic and I was put in a partial hospitalization program. This was the best thing that could have happened to me. While I was in this program I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. It was almost a relief when that happened, because it explained my history of behaviors over the last 11 years. I already knew that I had depression and anxiety, but now I was able to be prescribed the correct medication and I haven't felt this great in many years.

After being diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder, I started to feel ashamed. I didn't want anyone to know. I didn't want people treating me differently or looking at me like I was crazy. I have a less severe type on the bipolar spectrum. Ultimately it is a chemical imbalance in my brain. I was grateful that in the partial program I was in, I was able to meet other people that were going through the same things as I was. In fact, I have made several good friends and I always have them to talk to about what I may be going through. I am learning how to cope with this disorder so that I can live a normal life. I also realized I have nothing to be ashamed about!

When I went back to work I chose the people that I told about my diagnosis. There were some that said foolish comments, but overall it was positive. Most said they didn't really know much about Bipolar Disorder. This was an opportunity to educate them. My supervisor, first sergeant and commander have been super supportive to me and my family.

I hope that the next time you, a family member, friends or co-worker may be going through a tough time it's ok to get or suggest help. This doesn't mean you are a weak person. It takes strength to get help. If this only reaches one person then I am grateful to have had this opportunity to write this article.