It’s important to talk about mental illness. This is the only way to start reducing stigma against mental illness that seems to exist all over the place. My mental illness journey has for sure been going on for three and a half years. That was my Sophomore year of college. Since then it’s been a tumultuous ride, to say the least.
From my experience, that’s the thing about depression. It doesn’t present itself all the time. Other mental illnesses may be like this as well. For example, I’m not always feeling depressed. There are brief periods of time where I don’t feel depressed at all. Yet I then fall back into feeling depressed again. Sometimes it can feel as if depression is always lurking on the edges of my consciousness, waiting for the opportune time to attack and bring me back down. But that’s not the worst part of it. No, the worst part is when people don’t understand what you’re going through. How many times have we heard the following:
You’re so much happier than you used to be! You must be getting better!
You’re so much better now, you must not be depressed anymore!
I know you’ve struggled with depression before, but you seem fine now!
Do those things make you angry when you hear them? Because they sure make me angry.
Let’s be clear about something: Just because someone may appear to be doing better, or just because someone is doing better, it does NOT mean that they are not still struggling! *Phew, just needed to get that out!* Now I’m gonna take a deep breath and calm down.
Mental illness is hard on those who have it and it’s also hard on those who care about those who have it. Did that make sense? So basically, it’s hard on those who have it, friends and family. I feel like a lot of people who don’t understand mental illness don’t take into consideration exactly how hard it is on those who suffer and on their family and friends. It’s definitely hard on those who suffer. You’d think that would be obvious to people, I mean it’s right there in the word “suffer,” isn’t it? And yet there seems to be this awful misconception and stigma about it where people think that those who suffer want to be that way. It’s as if they believe that we enjoy being ill, suffering through each day. And that’s what it is, you know: suffering. I wake up most days and feel like doing absolutely nothing. All I want is to go back to sleep. When I am awake, I’m incredibly bored and nothing I try makes me happy. I isolate myself in my room. I rarely eat. Let me be clear. I don’t do these things because I enjoy it – far from it. I hate it. I hate that nothing makes me happy and I hate myself a lot of the time too. This is obviously very discouraging and leads me to do less which makes me feel worse about myself… the cycle just perpetuates itself.
PEOPLE WHO SUFFER FROM MENTAL ILLNESS DO NOT WANT TO BE THAT WAY – THEY DON’T FIND HAPPINESS IN IT!
Family and friends… you suffer as well. I can see it in the worry present in the eyes of my friends and family when I’m feel depressed and despondent. Or when you ask me “what’s wrong,” knowing that my response will most likely be, “Nothing, just not having a good day.” You keep asking me even though you know you most likely won’t get the most revealing answer… but thank you for continuing to ask. I’ve seen your suffering in the tears you cry when you find out that yes, I cut again. I’ve seen your suffering in your anger, when I’m sitting in a hospital and you’re telling me, “You can’t kill yourself – you can’t do that to me!” I see your suffering more clearly now, when I’m having a moment of clarity, than when I’m so incapacitated by my emotions. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the suffering I have put you through. I’m not going to apologize for how I was feeling, because my emotions were and are valid, but I do feel sad that you had to suffer alongside me. And I’m glad you care enough to do so.
I hope that families, friends, and those who are suffering from mental illness will share their stories with others, whether in person or via the internet. It is so important to get the message out there. To raise awareness for mental illness and the suffering that surrounds it. To help end stigma and educate those in the world around us.