I’m not usually a big fan of sharing celebrity stories here, only because I believe undue attention is given to celebrities’ hardships and tribulations. But actress Kristen Bell’s words rung a special kind of true, so I felt like sharing them with you.
“I shatter a little bit when I think people don’t like me… I compensate by being bubbly all the time. Because it really hurts my feelings when I’m not liked,” says actress Kristen Bell in an interview published last month.
“My mom sat me down when I was probably 18 and she said, ‘There is a serotonin imbalance in our family line, it can often be passed from female to female, and your…’ My grandmother was one of the first people they tested electroshock therapy on. […]”
While I’m not a big fan of the debunked serotonin imbalance theory of depression, I love the fact that her mom sat her down as a young adult to talk her about mental illness running in her family. These are the very kinds of conversations every parent should be having with their children — especially if there is a history of mental illness in your family.
Yet, it takes guts to do this and try and have a frank conversation with your kid about this topic. But it’s one that clearly benefits your child in the long run.
“When I was 18, [my mom] said, ‘If you start to feel like you are twisting things around you, and you start to feel as if there is no sunlight around you, and you are paralyzed with fear, this is what it is, and here’s how you can help yourself. […]'”
Why don’t more parents do this? Just don’t tell them they have a life sentence of a certain kind of mental illness, but tell them that it’s going to be okay. There’s treatment for it, so there’s no need to worry that you won’t be “normal.”
Yes, it takes work, even a daily kind of work as Bell notes:
“You have to be able to cope with it. I mean, I present this cheery, bubbly person. But I also do a lot of work, I do a lot of introspective work, and I check in with myself, [like] when I need to exercise.”
“I got on a prescription when I was really young to help with my anxiety and depression. And I still take it today, and I have no shame in that.”
“Because my mom had said to me, ‘If you start to feel this way, talk to your doctor, talk to a psychologist, see how you want to help yourself.'”
There’s no shame in mental illness. We learn shame early on as a child, when our parents or other adults in our lives make it clear that, “We don’t talk about those kinds of things.” That’s where shame comes from — it’s learned.
But if you learn early on that mental illness is just like diabetes or allergies, then you see that it’s just another condition that needs treatment when it flares up or gets out of control. And some people benefit from longer-term, low dose treatment (of medication or psychotherapy, or both).
“And if you do decide to go on a prescription to help yourself, understand that the world wants to shame you for that. But in the medical community, you would never deny a diabetic his insulin. Ever. But for some reason, if someone needs a serotonin inhibitor, they’re immediately ‘crazy’ or something…
“It’s a very interesting double standard that I don’t often have the ability to talk about, but I certainly feel no shame about.”
And nobody should feel shame in sharing their struggles with a mental illness, whether it’s with their friends, family, or the world. People who discriminate against those with a mental illness are simply demonstrating their own ignorance and prejudice.
Someday I hope such stories no longer generate headlines, because the shame and stigma of mental illness is no more.
Watch this raw, compelling, honest video now: