Editor’s note: This column briefly mentions depression and thoughts of suicide. Resources for help are listed at the end of the column.
As a kid growing up in the ’90s, I knew that any talk of mental health struggles carried the risk of being labeled insane. And if you were a girl, you were called hysterical. So I sucked it up.
I saw my nightmares, circling thoughts, and occasional shortness of breath as damning proof that I was out of my mind. While I kept my struggles private, others, including people I loved, called me unbalanced.
As an adult, writing and talking about mental health is something I do with a lot of pride and zero shame. There is such little embarrassment, I’ve even turned my breakdowns into my private stand-up show. When I say I’ve done over a decade of therapy, I do so without batting an eyelid. Seeing my therapist long-term is something I’m not just OK with, I know it’s a wise, responsible choice.
Nourishing my mental health means caring for those around me, too.
There is an overused, mega-famous quote that many attribute to Marilyn Monroe, who also lived with endometriosis. Yet, while it appears on endless social media posts, there is no proof she actually said it. It goes as follows:
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.”
I have an issue with that alleged quote. In fact, I’ve never liked it. I’ve been exposed to people who struggled with their mental health, did nothing to manage it, and as result became abusive and very harmful.
Being on the receiving end of someone’s emotional struggles can be excruciatingly painful.
There are many reasons why someone won’t seek help when their mental health becomes severely disruptive. A lack of money and resources limits the help available to them. There is also the stigma associated with these sort of issues, which even nowadays still prevents people from talking to a professional. The fear of what others might say and the horror of being thought of as crazy stop many from reaching out.
I’ve been penniless and unable to get private care. At certain points in my life, I became too anxious to think straight and search for help. I struggled with suicidal thoughts, an eating disorder, and strong bouts of depression. Eventually, I realized I couldn’t carry on in such a sorry state by myself, and I gave way to the professionals.
I knew my mental health was something I needed to actively care for.
Having endometriosis cemented that belief even more strongly. This disease affects our mental health, and there is no getting around that. Being dismissed by doctors for years during our search for a diagnosis or an effective treatment clearly influences our state of mind.
As patients, we are repeatedly exposed to endless waiting lists, people who don’t believe our symptoms, and unsupportive partners, and it all adds up.
Additionally, long-term pain associated with endometriosis can cause varying amounts of psychological stress. This can show up as anxiety, depression, and heightened levels of distress. In fact, a study in Norway found that patients who suffer from moderate to severe endometriosis have a lower quality of life compared to those free from the disease.
Oct. 10 Is World Mental Health Day.
I hope that means more of us talking about it more openly. Looking around my social circle, sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who mentions mental health with their coffee. I am aware that things have improved. There is more understanding when it comes to the subject of our minds and emotions. Yet it is not something that is seen as a priority, especially within the treatment of chronic illnesses.
If we suffer from anxiety, depression, or any sort of emotional distress, talking about it and getting help is as essential as having our heart rates checked. We need to normalize this kind of talk and improve the support available. Most importantly, we must give our mental health the huge value it deserves.
It’s time we give ourselves the space and love required to reach out and care for our mental health.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.