Physical Illness vs. Mental Illness
As a clinician, I don’t think twice about saying someone’s dealing with a physical illness, which is an unhealthy condition of the body – anything from a pulled hamstring to diabetes to a simple cold.
But I always hesitate about using the term “mental illness” in my writings because the stigma that clings to that term is like red on rash. Our culture’s ugly implicit message is that if you’re not normal then somehow you’re less than. Maybe that’s why back in the day, I kept my emotional distress top secret. In the world of television news, working as both executive producer and on-air, I wasn’t about to let it out that I suffered from an anxiety disorder or crippling self-doubt!
The biggest example of this is in the business community. When I moved my entire practice to online about 3 years ago, I took online marketing courses to understand how to do it. I listened to a lot of business consultants and teachers and noticed that whenever stuff like anxiety, fear and self-doubt were discussed, it was always framed as managing your “inner game” or “head space” or “head war” – euphemisms like that, carefully avoiding words such as “mental health,” “disorders,” and god forbid, “mental illness.”
Since then, I understand better that the professionals I work with often walk on egg shells in order to keep their anxiety and self-doubt a secret in their workplace – like I used to. In competitive business and entrepreneurial environments, individuals often believe that they’ll somehow be marginalized if it comes out that they grapple with these difficult emotions. Imagine how the pain of searching for ways to feel better is complicated by trying to keep it secret!
In these instances, I’m an advocate for full transparency. Categorically, letting our employer or co-workers know what’s up is never as bad as we imagine. Not close. We often believe that we’re alone in our emotional pain… but that’s not the case at all. Most everyone is grappling with some challenge to their emotional wellbeing – including bosses, top executives and business owners.
So while we may not be in a place yet to speak candidly about our “mental illness,” we can certainly practice being open about the difficult emotions we may be struggling with. If it’s appropriate when we’re working together, I always encourage students and clients to be honest with their boss and share descriptions like “I’m wrestling with anxiety and just wanted to let you know that I’m doing my best to work with it and get better,” or “Depression has been something that I’ve been grappling with and I’m in a program that’s helping.”
Where are you with what I’m talking about? Have you experienced the dilemma of how to share the information about your mental health? Please connect with me here
and let me know your thoughts and experience.
P.S. Getting in touch with your difficult emotions is pivotal to feeling better and healing trauma. Coming up later this month, we have a complimentary and exclusive session on: Resources & Inspiration for Tapering off Mood Meds that No Longer Serve You
. If you or someone you know is keen to reduce or get off their mood managing meds and the emotional blunting they may be causing, this is the event for you.