February 10, 2016

Stigma Begone

When I was 16, I was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid. It took the doctors 10 months to figure out the problem. I lost 40 pounds, missed most of the school year, and it felt like I had the flu for almost a year.

The treatment: removal of about 80% of my thyroid. If they had not taken enough, they would have had to operate again; if they had taken too much, I would have been on medication for the rest of my life. They nailed it. That story was probably marginally interesting. I had a medical condition and doctors treated it.

How about I tell you about the many days when I felt inferior, lost, sad, confused, or unsure what to do with my life? Or the days worrying about my career, finances, future, or self-worth? Are you wincing a bit?

Why do we have no trouble talking about someone who has an organ malfunction or a broken limb but we get embarrassed to talk about mental illness? 

The stats say that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have a depressive episode in their lives. This does not mean can't get out of bed for months; it means an episode which is a range from a one time event to a lifetime and any increment in between.

It's as pervasive as the common cold and we'd rather ignore it, shy away from it, hope it's someone else's problem. I'm going to be bold and say every human on the planet has at least one episode in their lives and it's nothing to be ashamed about and we need to talk about it. I'm not ashamed I had thyroid disease. I'm not ashamed I've had bad days and neither should you.

Ruby Wax explains her story which affects us all.


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