Mental Health Fear Challenge

I would like to invite everyone to participate in this Mental Health Fear Challenge. I am creating this challenge as a way to support and help combat those who through fear and desperation feel they have no hope.

For those of us with BPD, suicide rates are many times that of other illnesses, however lately we have a huge rise in suicides stemming from depression and hopelessness. I’m calling this a fear challenge because so many people have a difficult time dealing with fear. With fear people become withdrawn, isolated and eventually end up feeling the pain and hopelessness that their situation will never change.

It can change and here’s why, fear is a natural reaction that our brains trigger to warn us of danger. However, sometimes the warning is simply to warn us that we are experiencing something new or foreign. The thing with fear is it’s a warning, not a stop sign. Fear means caution, be careful and diligent, to move slowly. There are times when the fear response means stop, don’t go any further, but it’s important to understand which signal our brain is sending to us. We experience fear from many things, heights, bugs/insects, public speaking, roller coasters, and so much more. The question is, are these things scary or actually dangerous.

For example, someone who becomes afraid of standing out in a crowd or public speaking may actually be shy or experiencing insecurity for some reason. In this situation, the fear experienced doesn’t mean turn and run as fast as you can; it’s a warning that because you are shy or worried about something that this may be uncomfortable for you so take it easy as you do it to prevent becoming overwhelmed. Whereas, if you were in a situation where your physical safety was actually threatened because someone around you is or will be abusive, then by all means your fear is warning you to stop, turn back; run. The trick is in realizing the difference.

When we can look at our fears as a caution sign instead of a stop sign we are able in most cases to move forward, participate in events and eliminate the isolation we feel because our fears stopped us. Therefore, back to my challenge, I would like to hear from you things you do/did to help you overcome fearful circumstances that allowed you to move through the fearful situation. This is my challenge. My hope is that if we come together to share our experiences we can help others and prevent the hopelessness and isolation that so many become locked into. Help me give folks another option other than suicide. We can’t stop all suicides, but even if we can join together to save a few people it will be a start. I am going to end with a story of my own that caused me great fear to get us going.

Yes me, Alice Pirola, suffer from fear. I have suffered from a variety of mental health issues and co-disorders my whole life. This past year, I made the decision to come out of the proverbial closet and talk about my issues with mental health publicly. I need you to understand that I did not get properly diagnosed until I was 44 years old. This means I spent the bulk of my life suffering through symptoms, misdiagnoses, the wrong meds, ineffective therapy, mental health stigmas and more. I’d spent most of my life pretending to the outside world that all was good and that I didn’t have mental issues, I was just emotional. I had forbid my family to talk about or discuss what happened at home with anyone for fear that people would judge me, condemn me or pity me. I didn’t need that. I’d already spent my life doing those things to myself. I blamed my broken brain for the reason I wasn’t like other normal people. I knew I couldn’t get normal people to understand what I went through.

I had every excuse in the book why I had to hide the real me for fear of rejection. I watched how these people with physical illnesses such as cancer, ALS and others championed these people. I watched how gay/LGBT persons came forward with what had been taboos also championed for their bravery for coming out. Yet for some reason I do not understand, those of us with mental illness received no such congratulations for exposing our illness and ourselves. Instead, I felt ostracized and devalued for admitting I suffered from mental illness. Even close friends disowned me upon learning of my illness as if I was contagious or something. This heightened my fear of people learning about my mental health problems.

Then a shift came, I suddenly realized that people would continue to misunderstand us and treat us dis-respectfully if someone didn’t come forward and throw open the doors to expose that although we suffer from mental illness, we are people too. We did not choose to have this done to us. We would gladly give it up if we could, and although we have our issues, we are still capable, competent people who are able to contribute to society. With my decision made that, I had to do this, although my motives and resolve were resolute, my fears were also very strong, almost paralyzing.

It took all the effort I had, to convince myself that although I was terrified of how people would respond that nothing would change if somebody didn’t step forward. I started with small steps navigating through my fear, sometimes holding my breath and forcing myself not to turn and run. Some of my fears came true as more friends left me for exposing myself, but I got through it. I told myself that the people who left me probably weren’t the friends I thought them to be and it turned out they weren’t. Some of that I am sure were my symptoms creating a friendship environment that didn’t truly exist, that were now exposed. I discovered that as I continued to move forward, I was now leaving people behind who had been hindering me from growing and getting better. I discovered a whole new group of people who began to applaud and thank me for what I am trying to do. I am not saying that I no longer have fear. I am saying that I no longer allow myself held hostage by people knowing about my mental health status.

I hope to hear your stories of fear and thank you for participating.

With you on the journey,

Alice

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