Ignorance is bliss. Or is it? It can be challenging to decipher the true root of ignorance. Is it the literal definition of the word, lack of knowledge or awareness? Does malicious intent fuel ignorance? Does a lack of empathy fuel ignorance? Although daunting, the truth is, understanding the root of the ignorance in question is the first step toward improvement. Regarding mental health stigma, ignorance is one of the biggest obstacles to progress. Let's unpack a few common motives behind ignorance to help gauge a path forward concerning mental health stigma.
One of my favorite memes on social media says something like, “It’s almost time for me to put away my normal anxiety and put on my fancy Christmas anxiety.” Christmas is a very anxious--even manic--time of year for many people. But I have a special reason why my anxiety skyrockets around the holidays.
Staying organized helps my anxiety because one of the things that can be challenging, is dealing with a lack of control. Even though I know that I can't control everything, it becomes difficult when I feel like I am in a chaotic environment. It also becomes overwhelming when situations occur that I don't have control over and so, along with it, comes uncertainty.
Anxiety can negate your appetite. Anxiety and eating disorders often co-occur—that's hardly a shock to those who live with the harsh realities and ramifications of both illnesses. As the National Institute of Mental Health reveals, 65.1 percent of those with binge eating disorder, 47.9 percent with anorexia, and 80.6 percent with bulimia meet the diagnostic criteria for anxiety.
Growing up, I left the room when my parents turned on the nightly news. I had no interest. Besides, it was all bad news, or so it seemed: wars, fires, shootings, murders, robberies, injustices, bickering politicians, and so on. No, thank you, I had anxiety around the news.
I sometimes wonder if I would face the same stigma for dating men a couple of decades younger than me if the genders were reversed. It isn't that unusual to hear about men in their 40s dating women in their 20s. However, when a woman in her 40s dates a man in his 20s, the main assumption I've encountered is that she must be a "sugar mommy." It's almost as if it's unimaginable that a young man would be sexually or romantically interested in an older woman for any other reason.
For citizens living in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting shorter. Shorter winter days can affect your mood, especially if you deal with mental health issues like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In "Dating Like a 'Cougar' Is Leaving Me Lonely," I discussed my mixed feelings about continuing to identify as a cougar. I was worried that the term might be too small of a box to fit myself into. Having thought about it more, I now see the term more like a shoe that fits. It might be a tight fit, but it still fits.
I'm sad all the time. I'm miserable. I'm caught in a well of darkness and depression -- all the time. Now, not everyone who is depressed experiences this. Some people who are depressed experience persistent sadness bouts, yes, but they aren't necessarily constant. Depression can also be characterized by diminished interest or pleasure instead of a depressed mood. In other words, being sad all the time is not required for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder; but it sure seems to be required by my major depressive disorder (that occurs because of bipolar disorder). And the trouble with all of this is that being sad all the time is just too heavy a burden to bear.
I'm writing this just a few minutes removed from a morning run, which I hated almost every second. I'm not like the runners you see in the movies who gracefully jog with their camera-ready smiles; my face is usually fixed in a mask of focused despair, disguising not at all how distasteful I find the whole situation. This run was no different—my feet hurt, my heart pounded quicker than it wanted to, and my respiration struggled to keep pace. In short, the run absolutely, unmistakably, irrevocably sucked. It was exactly what I'd hoped for. I was hoping to increase my distress tolerance.