In honor of mental health awareness month, I wanted to take the time to tell you about Stigma Fighters.
I am 35 years old. For as long as I can remember I have suffered from panic attacks and depression. My moods were like a roller coaster. Some days, I would wake up in a cold sweat with my heart racing. I was terrified. It was as if someone was chasing me and trying to harm me, only there wasn’t anyone.
It was just me.
The fear shifted, changed and morphed over time. I was afraid of contracting a terminal illness and dying. Then I was afraid of starving to death because I had no appetite.
That was panic.
There was also depression. I didn’t want to open my eyes. I couldn’t bathe myself for days. I stopped talking. I stopped laughing. I couldn’t laugh. I forced myself to do the things I “had” to do like go to school (and at later points in life work) but everything felt wrong.
I felt wrong.
The worst part about feeling this way was that I couldn’t tell anyone about what I was coping with. It was a secret. My mom and my best friend were the ones who knew the deepest darkest parts. For the rest of the world, I had to fake being normal. I had to pretend that everything was okay.
Finally, something within me snapped… in a positive way. I was tired of pretending. In my 30’s I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about how it feels to live with a mental illness and have to hide it. It was called Fighting Against The Stigma of Mental Illness. Readers wrote to me thanking me for my honesty. I then realized that we are missing a crucial piece of the mental health puzzle in our society.
So many people are living in fear about people finding out they have a mental health issue. So I started a community called the Stigma Fighters where people could break their silence and share their stories.
I encourage you to read the stories of the brave human beings on Stigma Fighters. They are living with bipolar disorder, depression, postpartum depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, PTSD and more.
Stigma Fighters is becoming a non- profit too! There will be chapters of Stigma Fighters at colleges and universities across the United States. If you want to share your story, please consider doing it on Stigma Fighters.
Sarah Fader is the creator of the popular parent-life blog Old School /New School Mom. http://www.oldschoolnewschoolmom.com Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Additionally, like about six million other American adults, Sarah lives with panic disorder. She is currently leading the Stigma Fighters campaign which gives individuals with mental illness a platform to share their personal stories. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to show the world that there is a diverse array of real everyday people behind mental illness labels. Find her on twitter @osnsmom