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Poster Girl

There have been a lot of mental illness awareness posts going up lately which, you know, I think is great and everything. We have certainly come a long way.

We now use antibiotics to treat infection instead of just lopping off the affected body part. Fantastic. We welcome animals that routinely tread through their own excrement and roll around in dead squirrel into restaurants where we are served meals that have been grown in badger’s toenail oil and arranged on our plates in a way that spell out the words “live, love, laugh.” In Arabic. But if one of us admits to hospitalization for a mental break? The party dies faster than Trump in a Mexican restaurant.

Although I love the mental illness awareness posts, I hate that we’re only at this stage. Which, you guys would argue that it has to start somewhere, right? I get it. I know. So now what? How do we move past this stage? The stage where for a fleeting moment in time, sandwiched between political war and avocado toast, we read a copy-and-pasted blurb about something so huge, life and death huge, as mental illness?

I know what we need. We need the Andrews and the Suzys and the Yous and the You Toos to stand up, middle fingers out, and shout our stories from the rooftops. Because someone out there is going to be living it too. Really living it. And they’re going to sink to their knees with the relief that comes with being known and understood.

“They say I’ll never be the poster type, but they don’t make posters of my kind of life.” -Elle King

What else should we do to help reduce this stupid social stigma?

Is anyone else struggling with anxiety lately?

January has been bullshit for me and a lot of people around me. I feel like January and February are emotionally tough months to get through. I can’t wait to hear the birds chirping in my window in the morning and to feel the warmth of the sun on my face.

{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Megan @ Meg Go Run January 26, 2017, 7:05 pm

    I don’t know what else I can do to decrease the social stigma. Whenever I talk about mental illness with friends, family, and coworkers, they all see, to deeply understand it shouldn’t be stigmatized. So SOMETHING is working to get that point across, but I’m not sure what???

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 4:37 pm

      Yeah! It’s totally working! I just wish we were further along, that’s all. I’m having a pout about it.

  • Una January 26, 2017, 7:11 pm

    So my mental illness has had it’s toll on my relationship, and I said this to my husband during counselling:

    “If I had been diagnosed with diabetes, and it affected me physically, emotionally and mentally, you would have been accepting of that. You would have accepted that there is no cure, and that I would be living with this for the rest of my life, and that sometimes, it could get worse, or it could be better.

    “However, having depression, and struggling and fighting with it isn’t enough. You expect that once I deal with my past trauma, that the depression just goes away? You think that I’ll be cured? You don’t accept that this illness is enough to affect me physically, mentally and emotionally, and will always do so, and you reject all explanations for my behaviour while fighting depression as invalid.

    “That is bullshit. That is not fair and you know it. It doesn’t just go away.”

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 4:37 pm

      I hear you. I hear you. Okay so the one thing that really made a difference to the quality of my life was to approach my anxiety disorder with the intention of managing it, not curing it. Isn’t that just like, way more chill? Just approaching it like that? And doesn’t it give us way more freedom and movement within the context of the disorder? I love it. Maybe if we come at it this way then it’ll be easier for our loved ones to approach it with this perspective too.

  • Kristen January 26, 2017, 8:33 pm

    Una, thank you for sharing! That must have been exhausting to say, but so freeing to get it off your chest and out into the open.
    I am going through something similar right now, being recently diagnosed with post-partum (yeah, Suzy, we have stuff to talk about), and both my hubby and I are hurting because of it. But, “In sickness and in health…”

    • Kristen January 26, 2017, 8:35 pm

      Also, Suzy, I agree. There needs to be MORE openness on social media, not just in our kitchens while we pour our friend a 2nd glass of wine, although that is fantastic too.

      • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 4:34 pm

        Well, I wish it was like not just talked about, like “oh hey, we need to be aware of mental illness” and more like “I like taking my anti-depressants with bacon, because if the meds don’t work then the bacon will either make me happy or put me out of my misery.” <---- how do I not get paid for this?!?!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 4:34 pm

      Post-Partum, eh? Crap! I wanna hear more about it! Tell me!

  • Lisa @ Mile by Mile January 27, 2017, 1:58 am

    January is such a tough month. Have you heard of Blue Monday? Its usually the 3rd Monday in Jan and is reported to be the most depressing day of the year. Just a few more weeks until March!
    Yes to more openness and awareness! Thank you guys for being willing to share your story<3

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 4:27 pm

      This year was the first year that I’ve ever heard of Blue Monday. Makes a lot of sense to me, though. I used to think February was the worst but my god, it better not be worse than January or I’m going to go a little loco. I’ll have to break out the spray tan and margarita mix, stand in front of the space heater and play reggae.

  • Susie @ Suzlyfe January 27, 2017, 3:57 am

    Always yes to openness and awareness. Always. And thank you for being so insistent upon that. We have to show that you can have a mental health issue but still be a highly functioning adult, with the right help. Just like any other chronic illness.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 4:26 pm

      Hell yeah! And to up the ante a bit, I happen to love and appreciate the mentally ill a little bit more than everyone else.

  • steph January 27, 2017, 9:47 am

    Sending you lots of good vibes. I, too, struggle at this time of year. This year is especially strained by my partner and I learning we are expecting right as we were thinking of changing jobs/locations, etc. It’s tough but I’m thankful he’s supportive.

    My patron saint it St Dymphna and, though I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I have always tried to reduce the stigma of mental illness. My suffering was made even more difficult when I was ridiculed as a kid. My mom was somewhat understanding but only finally agreed to take me to get help if I went out of town since “people talk.” As others have said, we need to treat this as we do other illness…not as a weakness of those struggling. Much love to all of you!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 4:23 pm

      Steph, I hate that you had to deal with that isolating bullshit when you were a kid but man, you obviously rose about it to be able to be self aware now and able to be vulnerable and understanding of others.

      Congrats on your pregnancy! So exciting! If you read this, when are you due?

  • Amy Lauren S. January 27, 2017, 2:00 pm

    I read the blog post and the comments, and the one that struck me was the commenter who mentioned her husband and “in sickness and in health”. I see so many marriages and releationships where maybe people need to be reminded that mental illness falls into that category. If someone leaves a partner who has cancer, that is a tragedy and abomination. If someone leaves a partner who has anxiety or depression, others may say they are just saving their own sanity, doing what’s right for them, etc. NO. It doesn’t work that way. Mental health is health, too.

    I do agree, this is a very tough time of year with the holidays being over, SAD (if you live in a colder, darker place than SC), and the only upcoming holiday being Valentine’s Day which is depressing for so many people. Hang in there…

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 4:21 pm

      I love your thoughtful comments, Amy! Now I’m going to build off of it for a sec and please tell me what you think. Okay so now, what about this situation: someone struggles with mental illness and yet doesn’t do the work it takes to manage it (medication, psychotherapy, etc). What is their partner to do? And how much is the mental illness itself to blame for the actual “inability” (which could be seen as laziness or denial) and would it be fair to leave a marriage like that? Would it be fair to leave a marriage where someone chooses to not manage their illness? All of these components play such a huge part in all of this, and they lie on top of a foundation of an absolutely exhausted individual who has probably kept their one-sided relationship afloat for far too long and now, they too, are broken and need help. Happens all the time.

      I really need to move to somewhere hot. GAH.

  • Laura @ This Runner's Recipes January 27, 2017, 2:06 pm

    Yes to openness and awareness! We need to see people as individuals, not as illnesses. Especially now. Thank you for sharing!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 4:17 pm

      Wouldn’t that be great?! I think for the post part, the people we surround ourselves with are right here with us in the acceptance of and understanding of mental illness, which is pretty cool. I guess we freaked everyone else right out, which hey, whatever I guess.

  • Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home January 27, 2017, 4:33 pm

    Hand raised. I’m experiencing terrible anxiety from the steroids I’m taking for my RA. I was doing great but the last week or so, my anxiety has been slowly increasing. This morning on the way to work I felt the panic bubbling up. I was able to tamp it down but it took most of the day for that chest pressure to go away. I hate to succumb to meds but I feel that at this point, I have no choice. Crap.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 4:40 pm

      Yeah, there’s that whole acceptance issue thing that happens too, like once we accept that we’re struggling then we’re scared that all of a sudden we’re trapped. But accepting it actually gets us help and gives us freedom. It’s that whole oxymoron where when we let go, we gain so much more.

  • Ana January 27, 2017, 6:31 pm

    I find awareness months to be so hypercritical … we don’t need awareness months/days, we need to teach acceptance to all humans.

    What good is it to have an awaress day, month, hour… if we are going to go back to being assholes the next day.

    We have to teach that mental health is part of us as humans. And that it’s ok to be depressed, it’s ok to have anxiety, we are not crazy… but the voices in our brains just won’t shut up and let us act as the worlds definitions of “normal”!!

    I’m very riled up right now, as the president and his posse of clowns are getting more serious on the wall talk, it makes me feel that me and my people don’t count as humans because of which side of a line we were born, because of the color of our skin!! This whole world needs a big lesson on acceptance of other humans !!

    I used to talk to my siblings about mental

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 9:52 pm

      My heart is breaking for you guys down there. <3

  • GiGi January 27, 2017, 8:27 pm

    I totally agree with you – January and most of February = THE WORST! But they always come around, so we just need a good game plan as we head into them!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 27, 2017, 9:51 pm

      That’s actually a great idea! Having a plan gives us a sense of control, too, which is super important.

  • Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets January 28, 2017, 11:39 am

    I fully intend to share a post on postpartum, although I’m not sure I’m ready to sit down and write it yet. It’s there though. Keep on keeping.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 29, 2017, 9:21 pm

      I hope you do!!!

  • Ange // Cowgirl Runs January 31, 2017, 1:50 pm

    I’m very much with you. I wish we were further along when it comes to mental illness. When I was first coming to terms with my anxiety, I thought Let’s Talk was awesome, because that’s all I could manage. Now? I want us, me, everyone, whatever, to be able to do MORE.

    I’m also totally with you with February sucking. I think I’ve referred to is as an armpit in the past.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com January 31, 2017, 7:08 pm

      That’s a fantastic analogy! February the Armpit. Catchy.

  • San February 3, 2017, 2:02 pm

    I have a hunch that pretty much EVERYBODY knows someone who is struggling with a mental illness and still, people just behave like ‘if I pretend it’s not happening, it’s not happening.’…. which is a bunch of BS because wouldn’t we all be better off if we could talk about it freely and with compassion?

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