BY: Dee-Dee Kanhai – “The Spice of Suburbia”
It wouldn’t be fair to my friends and loved ones to openly discuss their personal struggles, but it is so important to me that I share my own troubles and triumphs with this disease. There’s some unspoken rule that you can openly tell people when you’re sick with just about anything – except this. MENTAL ILLNESS.
Yes, mental illness is usually “invisible”, and people who are suffering are usually suffering alone in silence. Some fear being judged, criticized, blamed, called a liar or even worse called the “C” word (CRAZY!). Others may be worried about social impacts, will their friends understand? Am I employable if I am mentally ILL? I know all these questions have run through my mind at one time, but YOU ARE SAFE! Mental illness is not some made up disease, IT IS REAL, there is HELP and I am here to tell you – it doesn’t discriminate.
Here is my story. I was a nervous kid. Every time I ate in a restaurant I would get this sudden fear that I was poisoned. Yes, five years old I am screaming, crying that my stomach hurt so bad that I would make myself sicker and end up in the hospital. My parents were told that I had a “nervous belly”, and they’d give me something to relax my tummy and send me home. These episodes carried over to school, and then when I would play sports. I can honestly say my earliest memories were of my young parents both confused by my constant stomach pain, trying to make it better, if just for one night, so we could all get some sleep.
Then, when I was just 14 years old, I was attacked. I decided that the world was way too dangerous a place for me. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, with depressive tendencies. I went from being a bubbly, fearless teenager one day, to a paranoid child who was sure if I left my house, something terrible would happen. I was in therapy twice a week, to “fix” my paranoia. I wasn’t making much progress and eventually graduated from seeing a psychologist to a psychiatrist. My issues only got worse as I became more and more scared of the outside world, and the thought that at any moment I could be swallowed up by a black hole, spontaneously combust, and get sleep paralysis or, “fill in the blank” was inevitable. My brain wasn’t operating as it had the first 14 years of my life, and I felt like a stranger in my own body. I didn’t leave my house for months, unless it was to see my doctor. My doctor suggested medication. I was willing to try anything. With my very supportive and loving family, I began to see progress (however, It doesn’t happen overnight either, full disclosure, I was warned “It’ll get worse, before it gets better”). My constant fears began to fade, and I slowly regained my life thanks to a great doctor who thought I deserved a better quality of life.
Now, here’s the thing, once you’ve taken medication to aid with your “chemical imbalance”, and you start feeling better, you tend to forget how bad it felt when you were at your worst. I started to convince myself that I was “cured”. I insisted that I didn’t need therapy or medicine and just stopped all my treatment. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I was back in that same dreadful place.
After another long battle and some very hard lessons, I began to accept that maybe I was ACTUALLY mentally ill, and would need to treat this as I would any other disease. Along with accepting it, came a lot of work and a hell of a lot of tears.
Why me? It took a long time to figure out “WHY ME”, but eventually I did. I am predisposed to this disease. I have suffered trauma in my life. I am naturally an empath, which is difficult enough without being imbalanced. I put a twist on this crappy disease and decided that maybe I had to be the one – simply to help others. I am an unlikely face to a disease that affects millions. My face. I am an example of a functioning woman diagnosed with Mental Illness. I am also a wife, a mother, gainfully employed in corporate America – as well as a small business owner. I volunteer for things I am passionate about, I’m a blogger, and I am even a BIG SISTER for BBBS. I am a productive woman who wakes up every day, takes pride in my physical appearance, and practices Yoga at least 3 times a week. I am an advocate for the National Alliance of Mental Illness, among other causes that move me. Most of all, I know that with the proper care for myself, whether it’s-medication or meditation- (usually it’s both) I suffer from Anxiety and Episodic Depression, so I need to continue to get treatment. LIFE-LONG-TREATMENT, because without that, all of the above would be harder or impossible.
Sometimes it is the least likely person who is suffering in silence.
This is no longer my dirty little secret. I’ve made it a point to be one voice in a sea of whispers. I am determined to do my part to STOP THE STIGMA and be a listening ear for those in need. The one thing I can promise you, this diagnosis is hiding behind the doors of the people you would least expect. A smile is a great mask. Trust me.
So, today I encourage you to share your story. If it is a diagnosis or an experience as a caregiver. You never know who is listening and the difference it could make just letting someone know that they are not alone. Having a support system helped me through the hardest of times.
In this month where we at The Daily Feels are dedicating ourselves to showing gratitude, how about we check on someone we love. Call, text, send an email and remind them that you are there for them. If you are on Instagram, post a photo of yourself using the hashtag #TDFLISTENS, and tag some friends so they know YOU are there for THEM!
As for me, I will personally be checking for the hashtag! As long as your account is public, I can see it, and I will show you some LOVE!!!
Mental illness is all too real to sweep under the rug.
For immediate HELP in a crisis call 911
If you need someone to talk to or guidance:
Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741
Dee-Dee Kanhai, aka “The Spice of Suburbia”, was a big city girl for 25 years who was transplanted to the Suburbs of Northern New Jersey. This relocation led to her “undoing” and with that, the discovery of her true self. Besides being a wife and mother to a teenage daughter and toy Chihuahua, Dee-Dee works in finance and owns a small Etsy Shop @LoveTheUndoing, where she sells heart-made jewelry, crystals, and other whimsical crafts. Dee-Dee is a student of life, teacher of meditation, practicing yogi and a mystical moon child.