Here’s the thing about mental illness.
It’s really, really lonely.
Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that for me, some of it can be self-inflicted. I’m a champion shutter-outer. For me, it numbs the pain of feeling any emotion at all, a welcome bliss. But it comes at an ugly cost: Alienation.
A lot of the loneliness I feel is simply because of our societal narrative about mental illness. It’s the giant lie that goes roughly like this: “Doing” will fix you.
Well, how often are you working out?
Are you getting out of the house?
Are you being positive?
Are you taking your medication?
Are you saying your prayers reading your scriptures going to church having faith attending the temple regularly etc. etc. etc???
Sure, some of these things are tried and true and will very much help mental illness. But not always. I’m doing all of those things — some of them to a fault — and I still feel like I’m drowning.
I realized just how deep I had plunged when I was on my back last night during yoga looking up at the dotted ceiling some 20 feet above me, staring into the florescent lights trying to fight off the abyss that was threatening to overwhelm me.
I love yoga and how I can normally leave everything on the mat, recalibrating my thoughts that are all too often bombarded with negativity and self-criticism.
But not always. And certainly not tonight.
Because that’s the thing about mental illness. Sometimes, the illness wins. This dark monster has once again set up basecamps in my brain and heart and it honestly feels like nothing I do can conquer it.
It feels terrible to admit this, and I’m sorry for anyone who takes offense. It’s not intended with a capital NOT. But I’ve often wished that I could have battled cancer or heart disease instead of mental illness. I’m sure this is a morbid, selfish thought, but here’s why.
Cancer is a socially acceptable illness. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, no one tells you to just try being positive. Masses of people ranging from loved ones to Internet strangers run 5Ks and share GoFund me accounts to help support you, building a community around you.
Mental illness is often discussed in whispers in corners or somber tones across family councils that look an awful lot like interventions.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not begging for charity, money or sympathy. Heavens, no. I’m looking for community. I’m looking for an acceptable way to grieve my illness, to struggle and stagger through my symptoms without the heavy weight of stigma bearing down on me.
Oh well, she’s just lazy.
Oh, she’s just looking for attention.
Oh, my gosh, she’s writing about depression again (eye-rolling emoji).
She just needs to apply herself.
She needs to snap out of it.
No. I just have a mental illness.
I hope, oh, how I hope, that these words will help someone else feel like they are not alone.
YOU DO NOT SUFFER ALONE IN THE SHADOWS.
Well, it probably feels like you do.
I hid in my room all day Sunday, trying to quiet my sobs as my family gathered for dinner. I was too ashamed to face them; too ashamed of my debilitating illness that had intensified over the weekend. Because I have no visible scars. Instead, I have a smile on my face and this blog where I try so hard to be positive about negative things.
Here’s the thing about mental illness. It shouldn’t be this way.
I don’t want a fundraiser. I don’t need it.
I don’t want a 5k or GoFund me. I want understanding. Empathy. Someone who will listen without judgement. So many of you readers have listened as you’ve read my words and I’m truly grateful.
I crave that compassion and understanding about this incredibly difficult cross to bear as a wife and as a mother and a human in general.
Please, if you know someone who is struggling with mental illness, love them. Let them know you are thinking of them. Validate their feelings rather then telling them what they should be DOING.
Chances are, they are doing literally everything in their power to fight, to survive, to hang on.
I’ve always been so impressed with bloggers who write about themselves or a family member, chronicling a physical illness, or a recovery from a major accident. They create that incredible community of love and hope as they share recovery and healing updates.
About a year ago, I wanted to do the same for my struggle with prenatal and then postpartum depression. Truthfully, I was far too broken to write then. I feel very broken now. But I believe with my whole heart and soul that God gives us our unique challenges for a purpose. Our job, or at least my job, is to share them in the hopes of lifting another.
So please. Join with me during my continuous fight to improve my mental health. I’m going to write about it, so read it or don’t. I only ask for your empathy and community. I love you, and hope to offer the same to you in whatever monsters you may face.
Because here’s the thing about mental illness.
Our discussions about it have to change. Let’s do it together.