Struggling With Shame

I’ve always felt some amount of shame about having anxiety, still, to this day it’s something I struggle with. I feel like I have to hide it from people, I will make up excuses and half-truths to get around admitting to people the extent of my anxiety. I worry what they’ll think of me if I come clean about my struggles. I guess it’s just another form of anxiety to add to the list. I don’t think this is a particularly uncommon feeling among the anxiety and depression community.

I think a lot of it has to do with how mental illness is viewed in society. It’s seen as a weakness, a failing, and that attitude rubs off on the people who are actually suffering. It’s easy to feel like you’re unworthy of a lot of things when the world around you is beating it into your head. More than that though, our experiences can shape the lens with which we look at ourselves, and if our experiences only reinforce the negative attitude we have towards our own mental illness then we’re going to come to believe them even more.

I know logically I’m not broken, I’m not weak, and I deserve the same things in life the “average” person deserves. But knowing something and truly believing it can be very different things. All it takes is a small step out of my comfort zone to open up to the wrong person, and I feel like I have to retreat back into my shell. I’ve dealt with this in friendships, dating, and even at work, and it makes it hard to cross that threshold into truly believing in myself.

Most damaging of all though is this feeling of shame we carry, this feeling we don’t deserve support, can get in the way of finding the help we need. I’ve been through these moments myself, and I know several others who have as well. Mental illness is something that hides under the surface, it’s not inherently visible to others, so it can be easy to feel like we don’t deserve help as much as someone who’s physically disabled in some way. But comparing our own challenges to others is a dangerous line of thought, we all have hurdles to overcome and we all deserve the help we need. We just have to ask for it.

Mental illness does not make us weak, broken, or worthless. It does not make us less deserving of success in our lives, relationships, or careers. We do not need to hide our challenges if we don’t want to, and we certainly don’t have to reject the help we need because we feel we don’t deserve it. We know this to be true, let’s start believing it!

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