I hurt my leg this week. Don’t ask how because I am not really sure. All I know is I slept on the couch and woke up in the morning with a sore neck and hurt leg – knee mostly. I think it has to do with getting out of the car at CVS the morning prior. Anyway, it hurts to walk on it and stairs are a bitch. So what in the world does me hurting my leg and straining my neck have to do with mental illness? All are invisible. If it weren’t for the hitch in my giddy-up, you wouldn’t know anything was wrong. Say you saw me sitting reading, I’d appear just fine. Meanwhile, the ache from my knee has sent spasms out to the surrounding area and is shooting pain up to my thigh and down my calf to my ankle. But you wouldn’t know that, not unless I told you. Mental illness is so silent it is scary. People hide behind false smiles and canceled plans and we are all led to believe that everybody’s all right. That girl with the voices in her head – you can’t hear them, but she can. That guy who had to wash his hands 35 times before leaving the house and then check the lock 10 times to be sure he locked it – you have no idea. We can only get help and help each other when we know something is wrong – like my leg or my sore neck or my OCD or my anxiety or my bipolar disorder. Trust. It is all about trust. Not everyone needs to know about the voices in your head, for some this would be scary to hear. But professionals have heard it all before. They know how to handle mental illness. And don’t be scared of the label mentally ill! Most people I know are physically ill. Who am I kidding, I know quite a few of the mentally ill, and you know what? They are amazing! Don’t let a label – schizophrenia, borderline, bipolar, depressed, PPD, OCD, PTSD – make you afraid of speaking out and getting help.
No one knows it hurts if you don’t tell them. Speak up.
This article first appears Psych Central , 31 January 2015.