I was reading an article about the last Mental Health Awareness week. It made me feel irritated. Although it was well written I just got a distinct feeling that it was written by someone with little knowledge and who only focused on those illnesses most commonly known to non-sufferers.
It also reminded me of a conversation which I had with my dad. He had a breakdown when he was a little older than me. He got through it on a variety of medications before deciding to go med free.
It’s great that there is a wider understanding of depression and that many places are now recognising that employees mental wellbeing should be considered.
The article and my dad are both failing in understanding that there are many mental illnesses which are not as straightforward and need far more understanding and general information. Illnesses such as bipolar and borderline personality.
There is also this complete lack of comprehension about how truly debilitating depression and anxiety are. What bugs me more is the idea that all those who suffer with mental illness can be put into the same box and therefore getting help is a ‘one size fits all’.
There is this idea that depression can be got over. A few weeks of taking it “easy” and taking mild anti-depressants seems to be how most people think of mental illness and how you people can be helped back on their feet.
This is a really sad realisation that despite there being far more information available, the ignorance of the general population is still so profound.
I suppose that I may well have had the same view if i hadn’t crashed and burned so badly. I avoided psychiatrists and doctors because I was always given the same shitty meds which did nothing so I didn’t take them. I found alternative ways to deal with the difficult times and then did my best to move on. Looking back I’m not sure how I did that. It seems remarkable that I managed to get through about 13 years with no real intervention of any type. Perhaps it was the fact I played it down. I didn’t share anything of any real importance.
But this time round there was no fooling anybody. I was too far gone in my head to come back quickly. It’s so fucking hard trying to get fit and well again. If it was a depressive episode or anxiety I think I would have managed to pull myself out of that state. But with borderline personality disorder, this is just not possible. I work hard everyday to react to things as normally as possible, I down play thing to a degree that is acceptable most of the time. But now it’s more obvious that this isn’t going to be straight sailing. Instead my illness has moments when it’s highly obvious and it effects how I deal with things and also how my husband sees me. It’s an illness which apparently can go. but this seems like a million miles away from ever happening.
My moods are far better than they have been but I can feel them sneaking up on me and it’s still a battle to keep them under control.
Mental health is something that each and everyone of us has and we have to ensure that we look after it. On the other hand, mental illness comes in tiers and needs to be recognised as such. Some people are able to bounce back to living their lives fully after a down period. But then there are far more of us who would do anything to be able to bounce back but simply can’t.
It’s not through lack of trying or because we like feeling this way. It’s because there are these different levels of mental illness and those with more difficult illness need more time and support. Patience and understanding are also so important. No one chooses to feel crap all day everyday. No one chooses to have a debilitating illness that no one can see and only they can feel. Just finding words to describe what we are dealing with can be impossibly hard to do.
I would do anything to feel ‘normal’ to have better control over my emotions, feelings, relationships, friendships, trust etc. I’m working hard to get better, but this is going to take more years of working hard, therapy, reducing meds because I’m doing well to having to go back on them because I’m more stable on them than off.
The article and my dad mean well, but they miss the much bigger picture. I could stop taking all my meds just like that if I chose too, but chances are I’d not do too well. Depressive episodes do come in waves, there is an end to them, not that you can see it at the time. But there are some of us for whom it’s going to be a lifetimes battle.
People with mental illness are courageous, strong, intelligent and have a lot to give in a variety of different ways. We shouldn’t focus only on those with a brief experience but those who will have the battle for many years, maybe their entire lives.