Destigmatizing Metal Illness

Recently, my blog posts have largely become a place where I document the slow process of self-teaching our way through basic home-improvement projects on a shoe string. Perhaps this is becoming a bit of a special interest… Jigsaw puzzles have absolutely taken a back seat to these projects; however, this seems like a positive shift, since home improvement projects are at least productive in their aim.

It’s only natural to write a lot about them on a daily blog, since my life is fairly mundane; thus, several hours a day dedicated to some sort of house project, which often involves a new skill, is noteworthy. Most of the endeavors have been surprisingly fun as well, so it’s understandable why I want to talk about them. Since I don’t actually “talk” to much of anyone during the day with any regularity besides my mom, my blog is my curated thoughts and feelings outlet (let’s be honest, I have many personal thoughts I have no interest in laying out on a public platform).

The progress on the deck yesterday was hard won. I applied a second coat of the stain over the main platform of the deck and started costing the seemingly endless number of railing supports. The trim is going to take forever, so I’m planning on recruiting Ben to help me over the weekend. It’s becoming evident that doing this entire deck independently is unreasonable. It’s looking decently, but the age and degradation of the wood certainly still shows. Fortunately, Ben seems to like it so far, and his opinion is all I really care about anyway.

Later this morning, I have my psychotherapy appointment. I noted yesterday that I’m not dreading it, though I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Not only is it emotionally taxing to dig into psychological demons, but the whole process of going there, waiting, and coming back is tiring. The stress seems to magnify the physical exertion and sensory demands involved in the ordeal. Because I’m already starting from a sleep-deprived state, it feels overwhelmingly exhausting to undergo the appointment. Despite this, I plan to push through and give it my best effort.

I hope we don’t have many formal weekend plans (not that we usually do!), but I feel abnormally tired, so the idea of resting without constraints is all too appealing. Next weekend, I know we have pans because Ben’s sister is getting married.

One thing that’s been haunting my thoughts is the tragedy of suicide. Although this is a timeless issue, it’s also timely because of the recent public suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Although people all over the world unfortunately end their lives every day, it always creates quite a buzz when a celebrity takes his or her own life, partly because when “regular” commoners commit suicide, it rarely makes the news and thus it goes largely unobserved except for those in the deceased immediate circle. The other contributing factor, I believe, is that for some reason, we tend to hold public figures to a different standard. People seem to imagine the lives of rich and famous, seemingly profoundly successful celebrities to be wonderful and therefore, it becomes mystifying and schema uprooting when someone of such status commits suicide.

However, it shouldn’t be. I imagine most suicides involve some sort of mental illness, whether diagnosed or not. Mental illness knows no bounds. It can affect all types of people: rich, poor, young, old, isolated, connected, and of any race, religion, ethnicity, identify, etc. I believe that some people are more prone than others, but it’s certainly true that many people are battling mental illnesses who appear functional or like they should have a “perfect” life. The thing about depression and certain other mental illnesses is that it’s not necessarily a bad or hard life or the circumstances with which someone lives that’s “broken” or too much to bear. An individual with a mental illness has a brain disease or disorder that disrupts normal healthy function and perception. Our society still stigmatizes mental illness, but like medical conditions, mental illnesses are almost always not the “fault” of the people battling them, yet because of the negative cache they carry, some people with these diseases and disorders are afraid to get help or too proud to admit the existence of a psychological problem.

The death of Anthony Bourdain hit me surprisingly hard. I’ve followed his career, read his books, and watched his shows as part of my long-lived obsession with cooking and celebrity chefs. Although I did not know him personally, it almost felt like I did because of how long I’ve followed along in his career. Any suicide is also a reminder of how dreadfully sick I was with depression in college. Suicide ideation was a problem I struggled with for a period of time. It’s so scary to think back on that time and face how dangerously close I was to an irreversible tragedy. I can’t imagine if I had ended my life. Even when things are really bad right now, I’m so grateful that for my life. I do suffer from mental illness, so I absolutely understand the beast that it can be. That said, I hope that I’m aware enough now of my issues and will seek additional help should things start to derail into that dark, dire place. This is one of many reasons why self-awareness and self-understanding is so critically valuable. Given the depressing thoughts my head is clearly ruminating on today, it’s fortunate I have professional therapy lined up; I’m far from immune to needing help.

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