For as long as I can remember, I have been scrutinized for being a woman and showing “too many emotions”. When getting upset, anxious, protective, or clingy, everyone around me had always marked it up to my womanhood. Told me that since I am a girl, my feelings can be chalked up to nothing more than an overreaction to simple problems.
Now, this is not a new problem. Women have always been made inferior in this aspect, being told that hormones and biology is the sole reason to these negative feelings that arise so often, and I personally have done very little to squash these predispositions.
As I grew up, mental illness became prevalent not only in my life but many around me. More and more women in my life had started to be more open about their suffering caused by their own brain chemistry.
I remember being in the seventh grade when my best friend started to tell people that she was depressed and that she had self-harmed. I remember how my peers reacted, stating that she was just looking for attention, that there was no way she was ACTUALLY depressed, she’s just overreacting.
Seeing how people reacted to another’s mental health made me worry about coming forward, even made me DOUBT how I was really feeling. Made me wonder if I was just overreacting, or that I was “faking it”. These feelings of doubt prevented me - and many others - from getting the help that I needed, when I needed it.
Where did we learn to disvalue another’s feelings? Especially feelings that are that severe.
More importantly, why would I disrespect myself so much that I would ignore my own mental health?
There are two problems here:
First, women keep coming forward about their mental health, only to be faced with rejection from their community and opinions about what they are really feeling.
Secondly, there are not enough men coming forward and being honest about their mental health.
As someone who truly wants to work towards equality, especially in the realm of mental health, it is easy to consider both sides. In order to reach full equality, as a society, we must actively work towards allowing women to feel deeply and intensely, and to be open and honest about their mental health, accepting women of all their hardships, big and small.
On the flip side, society must also allow men to feel deeply and intensely, and accept any claims of mental illness they may have. As much as women are dismissed, men are overlooked.
Mental illness is real and very apparent in our society. Mental illness does not discriminate between genders, it affects everyone, regardless of race, gender, or religion.
Remember that whatever you are feeling, your feelings are valid and important. You are not being too emotional, your mental health is very real and you should never ignore the signs. I hope that one day, we will live in a society where we can reach out for support without the fear of being rejected or dismissed.
-By Christina Paul and Taylor Landry of Ethereal & Co.; @etherealandco