Dear Editor,Stress, loss, anxiety and sadness – everyone has dealt with these emotions over the past several weeks. When these symptoms keep you from being able to function in daily life, or you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it’s time to get help.Mental illnesses should not be thought of any differently from physical illnesses. In fact, I believe the two are inseparable. Because the whole body is connected and interwoven, the two cannot be separated. The brain is an organ just like everything else in the body and can be hurt like everything else. When the brain is ill, it is not isolated in just the brain, but instead affects the whole body and the overall wellness. Substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide are very common and dangerous among those with mental illnesses. The stigma surrounding mental illness keeps people away from getting the help they need to get better and causes them to hide their pain.For five years, I was one of those people hiding my illness. I was quietly suffering from depression and an eating disorder.My whole day revolved around my eating disorder and hiding it from everyone. This caused a lot of sadness, anger and loneliness. I not only hid it from others, but I also tried to hide it from myself. I tried to convince myself that nothing was wrong because I did not fully understand what was happening. I did not know what was making me hurt myself and why I could not stop? As my weight was decreasing, my sadness and anger were quickly increasing. I used to became mad and upset at everyone and everything.The stress and pressure of holding everything in caused me so much misery. If something small happened, it became too much to handle and I had to release it somehow.The only way I could think of to handle this was to hit myself and other things until I forgot about all my pain. By this time, it was impossible to hide my illness, and my family finally found out my deep secret.I was scared of admitting that I had a mental illness and that I needed help. I was worried that people would judge me, treat me differently, or even bully me if they found out about my mental illness. So, I refused to get any help. I insisted that I was okay and could fix it myself. After a while of getting worse, my parents made an appointment from me and told me I was going to get help. I remember crying and begging my mother to not make me go, but she did, and I am so grateful to her now.For almost a year now I have been going to see a mental health counselor once a week. It took me a while to open up to her and tell her how I felt. But when I realised she was there for me and did not judge me, I was finally able to let her help me.Looking back now, I cannot believe how sick and miserable I was. I cannot imagine how my life would be if I had not received her help. I cannot express how grateful I am to her. She has changed my life for the better, I am so much happier and healthier now and look forward to living.Receiving help is the most important thing anyone can do for themselves. But unfortunately, the stigma keeps people from getting help. Mental illness should not be something to be ashamed about or thought of differently. Speak and seek help and stay strong.I am sharing my story so that others too can get the courage and can seek help to live a healthy life.Mannat Pandoh,Jammu.
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