I’m aware I’m a day late and no it’s no accident. I watched while my personal social media news feed flooded with company sponsored memes and hashtaged posts (is that how you say it? I know I said months ago I’d learn how to do the twitter thing) written by my friends and acquaintance, most of whom I would have never guessed gave a rats ass about mental health awareness, heck some of them I’ve seen straight out make fun of ‘us crazies’ as they’d put it and almost all of whom have no insight to my daily struggle with mental illness.
Do you want to know why I didn’t post anything myself?
Sure I could say that it’s because i didn’t want to join those masses and be part of a group of people only doing something because it’s popular. I could say I didn’t want to support a giant corporation using such a delicate subject as a ploy to gain free media attention and a positive public view. I could say I think it’s messed up that they pick ONE FUCKING DAY a year to post the shit out of a really important subject and then go back to ignoring it’s existence the other 364 days and I think that’s dumb. I could say I just suck with social media and socializing in general and my anxiety plays a part in that so I chose to not take part. Yes, maybe all of these play a small part in why I did or said nothing yesterday to speak out and break the silence and stigma around mental health.
The real reason is I’m scared.
While there are quite a few friends and family members that are aware of my physical conditions at this point, very few know about my mental illness conditions, how severe they are and they’d probably be most surprised with how long I’ve suffered ( a rare few people have tried to discuss the likelihood of DEVELOPING depression now that I am physically, chronically ill).
Invisible illnesses overall are drastically misunderstood by the masses, a lot of people struggle to empathize with something they can’t see. Sure you can believe in an all powerful entity up in the sky that controls our lives… but you can’t believe my friend needs a wheelchair because he’s not in a cast and his legs are able to move…. (sorry off topic…but you get the point). It’s hard to take the leap and tell someone you’re sick with no ‘proof’ for them and hope that they will be supportive. You have to trust that you won’t receive judgement or change their view of you as a person.
With a physical invisible illness it can be a small amount easier to explain to someone and have them be supportive and understanding. Most people are willing to accept that inflammatory type arthritis is different than a sprained joint, that IBD is different than indigestion or food poisoning, that chronic migraines are different than stress headaches, etc (then again there are still ass-hats who would say if you cut out ‘blah blah’ from your diet and drink 8 glasses and took THIS supplement you’d be healed…. there are always “these” people). You tell someone you have lupus, they generally don’t go “oh, I hurt sometimes too, but I just don’t think about it”.
With mental illness unfortunately the stigmas and ignorance surrounding the different disorders are outrageous. I have personally witnessed the “everyone gets sad sometimes”,”everyone worries sometimes”,”everyone is afraid to die” (my personal fucking favourite…) more than enough times to know that a lot of people make the assumption that unless you’re institutionalized or your doctor thinks a lobotomy is your only option, you must be attention seeking or simply too sensitive and need to grow a ‘thicker skin’.
Being functionally mentally ill isn’t possible (aka we’re all fakers here) and if your mental illness is severe enough to require medication, hospitalization and personal care you become an outcast for not being strong enough to control your own brain (the lack of empathy’s most douchy part… assuming we CAN control it ALL and if we don’t its a cognitive choice).
Generally speaking, apart from this ONE DAY where the outside world bands together and “LETSTALKS” it out for us… we support each other. We the sufferers of mental illnesses. We know that depression is not the same as being sad for a day, we know that being anxious is no the same as having anxiety, we know that phobias are not just fears to ‘man up to’, we know that OCD, BPD, schizophrenia (and other psychosis) are not sitcom personality material and are real disorders that can be devastating when left untreated. We know that self harm and suicide attempts are not just cries for social media attention and we know the great amount of strength it takes to step back from the ledge.
The few close friends of mine who actually know about my mental illnesses in actual detail are the ones that also suffer from their own. Why? Because of my own experiences I was able to tell by their actions, words and behaviors that they were suffering and needed help. Taking a step and being able to talk to those people made a difference. It wasn’t because they made a public outcry for help, it wasn’t because of one day where everyone posted they were there to talk. On more than once occasion, I’ve had friends do the same for me. We as sufferers are there for each other because we understand in a way that other people can’t, at least while mental health is still something we still only mention safely, publicly once a year.
I hope that someday the stigma around mental health isn’t so strong and that we can freely talk without fear that our mental illnesses do not make us weak but that fighting through them make US strong. I hope that in the future I don’t have to feel scared to admit that I’ve suffered from a panic disorder, depression and general anxiety for most of my life. I do not think having one day a year where we talk about it is the way this happens, but who knows maybe it’s a starting place…