To love and be loved. Something everyone wants but not everyone believes they can have. My friend, Jill is one of the most loving individuals I have ever met. She can put a smile on your face just by saying hello or welcoming you with a big hug. Yet every day she suffers with an illness that takes over her mind. It controls her thoughts, determines her actions, and at some points keeps her from sharing her beautiful smile and kind-loving energy with the people around her.

Ashamed: something individuals with a mental illness feel every single day. “I can’t talk about what I’m going through because it’s not ‘acceptable’ to be sad. It’s not ‘okay’ to be worried.” This stigma about mental illness makes me furious! By 2030, mental illness will be the NUMBER ONE global disease burden. If no one talks about it, how can someone going through a similar situation discover the help he or she needs? Addiction, anxiety, depression to name a few. Why are these situations treated any different than cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s?
“It’s something that is with you everyday. It something you don’t choose. It is a chemical issue in your brain,” Jill says when asked to define mental illness.
Jill noticed her thoughts about depression began at the age of 11. By 13, she really started to notice it but didn’t deal with it until the age of 15. For 2 years she sat there wondering why she couldn’t get out of bed, why even on the happiest days she could cry at the flip of a switch.
“I blame myself for a lot of it. You blame yourself because you don’t know what you’re doing wrong. You see all these people happy around you. We were watching a video in class and they were talking about all these red flags about depression and I just started crying because I kept wondering why no one would tell me about it before,” Jill says.
“I was so good at hiding my feelings. My friends had no idea how I was feeling. As an educator, I think mental illnessneeds to be talked about at a much younger age. It is something about which parents need to be educated,” Jill shares.
You might wonder how it affects your daily life:
“It affects how I laugh because I just laughed when everyone else laughed. I just laughed because other people laughed. I didn’t have a real laugh. I tried to hide it and I hid it so well that I tried to be like everyone else. I didn’t want them to see the intense pain I was feeling. It affected how hard I tried in school. I thought maybe if I got really good grades or played every sport I could, it would go away. It added to my competitiveness. It made me compare myself a lot. It makes me compare myself still. At one point it affected every single thing every single day. I don’t think it should have that much control, but at one point depression controlled my life,” Jill says.
I think of Jill as one of the strongest women I have ever known. She did get help. She started talking to a therapist, someone with a non-biased opinion. She found multiple ways to deal with her depression so it impacts her less every day. Her biggest advice is to make sure you have an outlet and get help. For her it is writing in her journal, listening to music, talking about it, and being outdoors.
“When I eat healthy, it makes me feel good because I am giving myself good nutrition. I know it is good nutrition but I know it’s my own personal feelings as well. Being active is a huge, huge outlet. It’s a good distraction. It makes me more energetic. Depression takes a lot of energy out of you. When you don’t have a lot of energy, it makes things worse,” Jill says for ways her health has impacted her depression.
What is your biggest advice?
“If you’re dealing with it, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. It’s easier said than done. Realize you’re not alone. Even in the darkest times, there is hope. Try your hardest to find one thing that makes you happy. If your friend is suffering, don’t be afraid to ask them about it because there are so many times I wish someone would just say ‘Jill are you okay?’ And love them. Support them. Give them time. For most people, it is not a choice. We are not doing it for attention,” Jill says is her biggest advice.
Help us fight the stigma about mental illness by ordering your stitch today. Mend the world one stitch at a time and love and be loved.

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