Just because we cannot see mental illness doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It does exist. It exists just as much as any other illness or disease but yet there is huge stigma around mental health.
Maybe it is due to lack of understanding and lack of knowledge but maybe it is also down to ignorance and people not wanting to understand.
If mental illness could be seen I am pretty sure that there would be no “just get over it”! Think about this; would you tell someone with a brain tumour to “just get over it”?
“But that is different” you might say. How? How is it different? You cannot see a brain tumour just as much as you cannot see mental illness.
Except that, if you look closely enough, you can sometimes see mental illness.
It may be the withdrawn quiet person who seems to have no friends or maybe it is the loud, bubbly person who seems “normal” but struggles to socialise. Maybe it is the person who struggles to control their anger and loses their temper easily. Maybe it is the person covered in cuts and scars who is just “really accident prone” or the person who always wears long sleeves so no one sees those scars. Maybe it is the person who has no friends or the person drinking too much or taking drugs. Maybe it is the person who starves themselves or who binges and purges in secret.
Or maybe it is the person who walks across the bridge every day on their way home from work or school or college because they “like the scenic route” when in reality they are just hoping to find the courage to jump.
That person is the one who today was told to “just snap out of it” when they confided in a friend or colleague. They are the one who was told that their problems do not matter because other people have problems too.
They feel alone and fragile. I mean people tell them that they are loved and valued but still they feel unloved and unwanted because of something that they cannot control.
They feel stuck in a hole, unable to climb out, needing help and wanting help yet at the same time not wanting to let anyone get too close. They are too scared to trust. They feel like they have to prove just how sick they are. However, at the same time, they don’t want to admit how sick they really are because they know that they may never get better and that is a fact that scares them to death.
They feel exhausted, alone and afraid. Every day they are fighting a never ending battle with their own mind.
And here is the thing, the thing that no one understands; that person cannot just snap their fingers and make their illness or insecurities go away. Mental illness does not work that way.
Mental illness is not a choice and you know what else? Mental illness is not contagious. You cannot catch it by being kind!
People who suffer from mental illness push people away when they need them the most. They can argue over nothing and sometimes even get violent. Sometimes they can hurt others but mostly they will hurt themselves. They don’t mean to, it is a cry for help.
Please do not turn them away or tell them that you no longer want to bother with them. They don’t mean to be angry and they don’t mean to push you away. They need you more than you realise.
They have lost loved ones, family, friends and jobs.
Mental illness creates heartache and shatters dreams. Believe me, I know! I suffer from Depression, Anxiety, PTSD and BPD. Would you notice to look at me? Probably not. I hold down a job, have a husband and friends. However if you looked closely enough you would also see that I self-harm. You would see the scars all over my arms and legs and wonder how they got there, not knowing that it was by me cutting and burning myself.
Why do I suffer from all these things? Because I was abused. I was tortured and I was damaged. They hurt me more than I ever thought anyone ever could and it has affected me more than I ever knew it would. I did not choose to be sick and I may never get better and that scares me more than anything but here is the thing that people need to remember; my mental illness does not define me. I have a name, I have a history and I have a personality. Staying myself is the hardest part of the battle. A battle I fight every single day.
I push people away when I need them most because I am afraid to get hurt again and because I feel like I do not deserve help or love or support. Most of us who suffer with mental illness feel this way. Our illnesses make us believe we are not worthy of love or friendship or support. Our illnesses make us believe we are bad and unlovable.
So please, if you know someone who is living with a mental illness, don’t turn your back on them. Don’t tell them to get over it or to sort out their mood. Don’t walk away when we need you most. We don’t mean to be the way we are. We are sick. We are just as sick as someone with a physical illness.
Instead of walking away be there for us. Love us. Support us. Try to learn about our illnesses and try to understand us. It will be hard and sometimes frustrating and even challenging but supporting someone with a mental illness will be one of the noblest things you ever do.
We are ill. We wish we weren’t but we cannot just snap our fingers and make our mental illnesses disappear.
Why? Because stuff like that only ever happens in fairy tales.
And believe me…. Living with a mental illness is no fairy tale!!
Thanks for reading.
**Image courtesy of Google Images**