There are some days when I look in the mirror and think, “I look pretty today.” Or even, “Yay, I look cute!” I have never considered myself a gorgeous girl by any means. I always did what billions of girls and women do across the globe…critique myself. Put myself down. I’ve even dated some real winners who confirmed my own insecurities about my body (they were complete assholes and not worth my time, obviously). There really is SO much I want to cover about this topic of insecurity in women, but today I want to focus on something else.
When you look at my picture you may see different things. Maybe you judge me by my age. Maybe you think I’m pretty (or ugly). You don’t like my eyebrows. You love my eyebrows. You get the picture. These are things we do when we look at other people every day. We immediately judge. We create a reality for them. And for women, we can be super harsh. We take one look and decide we don’t like them. It could be because we are jealous of how they look or what they have. It could be because we feel we are better than them. And the irony is, they are probably dealing with many of the same issues we are. Not life issues. I mean the issues within ourselves.
I love to be the funny girl. The girl who listens to others. The girl that is a good friend. The girl who is supportive. The girl that everyone loves to be around. But there’s something about me that most people don’t realize. I suffer from anxiety and depression. Not to the point that I have ever wanted to harm myself or others. But there are times when I just fall into it bad..like falling into a rabbit hole. There doesn’t have to be a clear reason that the depression and anxiety starts taking over. It just hits me and feels like I can’t get myself out of bed. It feels like putting dishes in the dishwasher is like asking me to move a building with my bare hands. The thought of going out to meet with friends is a weight and feels like a chore and my feet are nailed to the floor. And trying to be social with strangers while I’m super down? Forget it! The sad part is, I want to cry for my kids. Just taking care of their basic needs is something I celebrate on my bad days. Well, I WOULD celebrate if I had the energy. When I am like this I feel like a failure as a mom and as a wife AND as a human being. And there are seasons when it lasts for weeks, no matter how much I struggle and try to pull myself out of it.
Let me share some stats and facts with you, taken from here:
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
- Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
- People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
- Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
What’s worse is women are TWICE as likely as men to suffer from anxiety. TWICE. I have run across so many women that also say, “Me too!” when they find out that I am really suffering on the inside. And then it really ties us together and, hot dang! It feels good to have that instant connection and know that someone gets me. Here’s the bad that goes with this fact that there are so many women suffering. I guarantee many of the women you run across each day suffer from some sort of mental health issue. And yet, here we are. When we should be searching to bring awareness and acceptance, we are judging. We aren’t giving them the time of day. We are making that immediate decision in our heads of who we think they are. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a good sense of others. There truly is a lot you can know about a person at first glance. But what you can’t know is what they are suffering with. What their hopes and dreams are. What keeps them up at night. And what helps them sleep. Sometimes I feel fine or even great. Another word for that is normal. Finally accepting that medicine can help me and isn’t something to be ashamed of is a huge help there. But less than 50% of people who suffer from depression worldwide actually receive treatment.
So while it is human nature to make a quick judgement. Allow yourself to step aside for a moment. If you have time to speak, say hello. Give a genuine compliment. Start a conversation. It may end up being the best conversation of her life. It may just be the pick-me-up she needed to get through the day. Because happy-go-lucky faces can also be the faces of mental health issues.
Together, we can bring awareness and acceptance. Together, we can build a tribe.
P.S. If you are an entrepreneur dealing with mental health issues, you may get some value out of Jenna Kutcher’s podcast The Goal Digger Podcast, episode 176: The Truth About Mental Health and Entrepreneurship with Jen Gotch. I got some great helpful nuggets there 🙂
The signs, symptoms and treatments of anxiety and depression are all over Google. But here’s just one quick link for you, just in case you need to look into it for yourself or someone else. And if it is you, know that you are not alone.