I love November because I get to see and hear about what people are thankful for in their lives. The few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving remind people what is truly important to them. This encourages me to reflect on what and who I have in my life rather than dwell on my illness.
I’m thankful for many things: I have a place to live, clean water to drink, and food in the fridge. But what I’m most thankful for is my amazing support system. There is no material possession that compares to love and encouragement from those who care about you. I have my service dog Joey, my family, my friends, my mental health workers, and my community. I also have an extended support system of people I’ve met through social media pages. Even on my difficult days, I know that there are people who believe in me and will be there for me.
Many people with mental illness don’t have strong support systems; they often have to fight the battle on their own. I've seen people in the hospital with no visitors and have heard my peers say that their families shamed them for taking prescribed psychiatric medications or wanting to see a therapist. Having an invisible illness is difficult because there is no blood test, x-ray, or scan to “prove” the illness. Not as many people come to see them if they are hospitalized, fewer flowers and cards are sent, are people are more reluctant to offer their help. It’s a sad reality for those with psychiatric disorders. Without feeling supported, it’s common for these people to isolate themselves or avoid seeking the help they need.
The holiday season can be a very difficult time for those with mental illness. We can all take actions to show support and to promote mental heath.
You can check in on friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they are feeling well and stable.
You can send a card or call someone you know who is struggling with mental illness to let them know that you are thinking of him or her.
You can also reach out to parents, children, siblings, or caregivers of someone with mental illness, and let them know that they aren’t alone.
Remember to never minimize someone’s struggles, and always encourage people to seek the help they need.
People don’t choose to develop a mental illness. It’s not a decision; it’s a disorder. We all can choose to be kind, generous, and open-minded. Your support during difficult times could save a life. People with invisible illness shouldn’t have to feel invisible.