The Transitional Generation of Mental Health Awareness

Another article I wanted to share:

“You would never guess that underneath the smile, I experience feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, fatigue, irritability, and despair.”

These words stuck with me because, at the beginning of the article, the writer says that people usually describe her as, “happy, optimistic, and confident.” I don’t think I’ve ever been described as confident, but recently I’ve become very aware of people mentioning how happy I was as a child. Not that they’re saying it to compare my 27-year-old self to the 3-year-old version of me, but sometimes it feels like they’re saying it because they don’t see how someone who was once a happy-go-lucky little kid could become someone who is as unhappy as I feel.

I still find myself feeling as thought the people in my life don’t believe that I have this thing that makes me hate myself and doubt everything I do. Part of it, I think, is the fact that the generation before me really didn’t talk about mental illness.

I am part of what I like to refer to as the “transitional generation” when it comes to technology, because people my age seem to be an average of both extremes, either very tech savvy or not at all.

My parents and grandparents generations consist of a majority of non-tech savvy people, but there are some in my parents’ age range that are very tech savvy as well. I mean, Steve Jobs was born about 3 years before my dad, so obviously there are some techies in his generation.

Then, there is the younger generation. The kids born after the invention of the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. They don’t remember every not having internet, and a lot of them know how to use these devices better than their parents.

When it comes to mental health, I think I am a little older than the “transitional generation”. I think teenagers, right now, have excellent resources available to them, and with increasing awareness about mental illness and mental health, I think that the kids who are between 5 and 10 years old right now are going to be far more aware of mental illnesses and more accepting of people with mental health challenges.

I think people around my age, currently, are mostly still part of the stigmatization due to the lack of awareness their parents had. I admit, I have been guilty of this in the past. Even towards myself. Part of me knew something was wrong and that I needed help, but I couldn’t admit it to myself. On top of that, I had no clue what an anxiety disorder was. I really didn’t understand the meaning of the word “anxiety” until after I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. My doctor didn’t even explain it to me when he said I had it. I had to do the research on my own, but what I found was that there is a ginormous amount of information out there (I love the internet!) and it is so easy to find information. I have learned so much just by casually browsing and Google searching, and have since noticed more and more Facebook pages that I already liked sharing articles about mental health and I’ve found many websites dedicated to mental health, and now all my social media feeds are full of great information about mental health and stories about people struggling with mental health issues and it has made me feel like I’m not alone, and that is a really good feeling!

One thing that I have really struggled with though is realizing how severe my illnesses are. Back when I suspected something was wrong but wouldn’t admit it to myself or anyone else, part of the reason I didn’t do anything about it is because I thought that people would tell me it wasn’t bad enough. Part of that is the illness itself telling me it wasn’t bad enough or didn’t exist, but part of it is simply the stigma. I was terrified to tell anyone how I felt because I was scared that they wouldn’t be supportive or understand.

I know I’m supposed to tell myself that that’s the illness talking (and that’s part of what you learn in CBT), but when you’ve had actual experiences where people tell you there’s nothing wrong with you when you actually think that there is, it makes it a hell of a lot harder to speak up.

Side note: With that, I’m referring to physical symptoms I’ve had in the past that were brushed off because doctor’s couldn’t find a cause, but also, when I was a kid, my parents often told me I was fine when I said I didn’t feel well and they would force me to go to school even though I didn’t want to. That basically told me that if I wasn’t visibly ill, to the point where I was puking and couldn’t get off the bathroom floor, there was nothing wrong with me. And that thinking followed me right into adulthood. I never call in sick to work because I’m terrified that they won’t believe me. And whenever I don’t want to do something, if I can’t come up with a legitimate reason why I can’t do it, I will be frantically trying to find a way out of it right up until the last minute and end up doing it because I don’t want to offend anyone or have them thing poorly of me. Like how pathetic is that? Thing is, I went my entire life thinking that was normal! I only just found out in the past few months that it isn’t.

Anyways, this is kind of the whole point of sharing my experiences on the internet is because I suffered for such a long time without telling anyone, and without even understanding it myself, and that is wrong! No one should have to go through that!

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