I have anxiety.
Just typing those words or saying them out loud triggers my anxious tendencies. So many different things can bring on an anxiety attack and sometimes there’s no real cause at all. The tightness in my chest, the sensation I get in my throat that makes it hard to swallow… it all seems to appear out of thin air.
The worst part, though? If you choose to open up about having a mental illness, you’re often met with judgment. Telling someone “I have asthma” or “I have a heart condition” just doesn’t have the same kind of stigma attached to it as telling someone “I have a mental illness.”
And so, we tend to keep quiet.
But this week, a writer from Portland, Oregon is doing her part to change the conversation — starting with the way we view taking medication for mental illness. Blogger Toni Hammer recently posted an emotional video to Facebook that explains her anxiety and depression, and asks others not to judge her for it. Hammer’s bravery and willingness to be transparent about her struggles isn’t just commendable; it’s inspiring.
“One of the reasons I do what I do as a writer and a Facebook personality is to let women know they’re not alone,” Hammer tells Babble. “Most of the time, it’s about motherhood — cranky kids, too much laundry, and cold coffee — but I’m also passionate about mental health awareness. I felt like something was wrong with me when I needed medication … I don’t want anyone else to feel that way.”
In the three-minute video, Hammer tells her story by holding up a sequence of hand-written cards with notes like, “I’m not broken. I’m not crazy.”
Those two simple sentences punched me in the gut (in a good way). Because sometimes I do feel like I’m broken. Sometimes I do feel like I’m losing my mind. And yeah, “crazy” is a word I’ve used to describe myself during my periods of extremely negative self-talk. It’s harder than it looks to speak your truth and be honest with society.
Hammer goes on to share some of the details of the medication she takes to help her be a “better person, partner, and parent.” It’s a powerful message for those of us out there who often feel “less than,” because we have to take a pill to feel level.
“There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with me. My brain is just wired differently,” reads the next set of note cards.
If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you know just how validating those words are. Or if you know someone with depression or anxiety and just don’t “get it,” then maybe Hammer’s message will help you understand.
“I was strong enough to ask for help,” reads another card.
As someone who feels their anxiety is crippling at times, “strong” isn’t a word I usually feel applies to me. Every time I cross the threshold into my psychiatrist’s office, I wonder if someone I know will see me or gossip about me because I was seen going to one of “those” doctors. I don’t feel strong. I feel shame. I feel weak and small.
But, I’m not weak and I have no reason to be ashamed of needing to take a pill for a medical condition. This simple video was the wake up call I needed show me I need to treat myself with kindness and feel proud that I’m doing all I can to be the best version of myself.
“If someone is sick, you don’t judge them for taking medicine, do you?” asks Hammer.
And it really is just that simple, people.
Hammer shared the video on her Facebook page July 14, telling her readers, “I’m tired of myself and others being judged and looked down upon and feeling like we are ‘less than’ because we take medicine for our mental illnesses.”
It was the message I needed to hear today. Maybe it’s the message you need to hear, too, or perhaps you know someone who needs to watch this video and read these words. Either way, it’s hard not to watch and not feel moved.
“Asking for help is the strongest thing you can do,” says Hammer. “And I wanted women everywhere to know that.”
So yes, I too have anxiety. And just like Hammer, I take medication to manage it. I’m not broken. My brain is just wired differently.
And that’s OK.