I was sitting in class one day when suddenly the teacher called out my name and asked me to read a page from our textbook. I stared at the words but the letters kept moving around, flying from one corner of the page to another. The “b” flipped to “d” or the “d” flipped to a “b” and nothing made any sense.
As I continued to stare at the page silently my teacher yelled, “You are in the third grade and this a simple sentence!” The other kids pointed and laughed while I hung my head. As it turned out, I had dyslexia, a common learning disability that can be overcome. However, in the country, I lived in and the school I attended, differences were not something that were celebrated and the principal even suggested that I should be sent to a “special” school. The whole ordeal was a great matter of shame for my family and kept very hush-hush. Dyslexia is a learning disorder but holds a lot of the same stigma that mental illness, like depression or anxiety, has.
When we hear about others having physical ailments like a broken leg or a sore throat we sympathize with them and send them “get well soon” cards. But when we hear about mental illness, it’s a whole different story. Many people ridicule those that suffer from a mental illness, claiming that their “problems are not even real.” You hear things like “she’s crazy” or he “just needs to get over it.” Depression and anxiety are very real problems and most of the times you can’t just “get over it.”
Depression and anxiety are very real problems and most of the times you can’t just ‘get over it.”
As a society, we need to be more accepting of mental illnesses and let go of the stigma. Many of my friends who have depression or anxiety struggled to accept their diagnosis because they were worried about what people would say or think. If people do not accept their problems and seek out help, recovery can become almost impossible. My dyslexia did not disappear overnight. I had to spend two hours after school every day for over a year to train my brain in a way that allowed me to read and perform other everyday tasks.
For those who suffer from a mental illness or learning disorder please remember that though the road may seem lonely, you are not alone.
Many people out there understand what you are going through and are willing to help you. Rather than ignoring and marginalizing mental illness, we all need to learn to embrace it. Accepting our problems is the first step to solving them.
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