I’m glad people seem to want to be aware of mental illness these days, but can I tell you a secret?
I kind of hate it, too.
You see, what I really need is a place to be dark and turbulent and sad and numb, but I cannot have that, because now my family and my friends and anyone I could possibly reach out to will try to pathologize every emotion I share. With all of this hyper-awareness going on lately, I feel like if I step a toe out of line, I am barraged with unsolicited advice towards therapy and meds.
What kind of therapy? What kind of meds? They don’t know. Because that’s where everyone is right now. Anyone who is gritting through a cycle must now be made feel like they are in immediate danger and dire need of help. It’s often followed up by well-meaning holistic anecdotes of a cousin’s friend who cured themselves with daily hot yoga and homemade kombucha. It’s all in your gut biome, you know?
Or worse – they start to assume you are suicidal and watch you, weirdly. It’s uncomfortable.
If I’m a little too dark, I scare my family. I little too angry, my friends get nervous. If I’m a little too quiet, my husband gets anxiety. If it lasts a little too long, everyone gets impatient.
Sometimes when I make eye contact with someone, my face contorts into an over-enthusiastic smile, because I know I look vacant and sad. And you can’t let anyone know you are vacant or sad, or the wheels start turning and they talk about you. They feel sorry for you. They ask if you are okay and then you have to lie (we all know the lie,) “I’m fine. Just tired.” That just means, “I’m not fine but it’s a doozy, Susan, so I’m not going to ask you to sit in the weeds with me because it’s both impractical and time consuming, plus you lack the skillset to do so.”
I cannot scream, I cannot cry. I cannot be alone. I cannot be with people unless I am smiling. I cannot put my fist through a piece of furniture. I cannot run naked into the woods. I cannot do anything except stand very still and try not to give it away. Because everyone is aware now. So aware.
But the problem is they still don’t understand.
What I long for is people who aren’t afraid of me when I crash out. People I can say dark things to and they know it’s simply a part of the normal spectrum of human emotion and chemical flux. I long to be released once in awhile to work through my mind and forgiven for not always being able to “be there.” I need to be loved as I am, or at the very least, accepted without anyone trying to fix me.
I know, it’s hard on everyone. People are only trying to help. But often, help is simply space and acceptance, without suicide hotlines and pills and therapist recommendations or kombucha recipes. I’d like it if people were also aware of that.
Because I am fine, everybody, just tired.
I definitely understand those types of feelings. The feelings about people being super aware of mental health challenges that it’s suffocating. People try to help with whatever worked for them or their loved ones when really all we- you and me (I can’t speak for anybody else and can only reiterate what you said in this piece)- want is for people to accept us as we are and to realize that being upset is part of being human and not necessarily an aspect of so-called mental illness. Basically I relate to what you’re explaining in this piece and want to offer my solidarity. #ResourceRebecca
I hear. I lived alone for 6 years after a divorce. I was up, down, sometimes weird. I learned to be with myself. Now I am in a great relationship. And he understands when I go to be alone. But I still miss it. Exploring all the moods, being present in what I was experiencing, not trying to fix it. And I was happier, my weight was down. I did have some very indulgent days, but overall I was more productive, and slimmer. Now in that great relationship, I have gained weight, spend more time ‘checked out’ . He hasn’t done anything wrong. I just need that time, that space. The last time I took 3 days, I did some work, some reading, I was lonely, depressed. Then suddenly I was happy and at peace. It was the lack of pressure, from myself, from others’ perceptions. Now I just have to get better at creating that space for myself.
Just talk to my own treatment team about these types of thoughts/feelings earlier this week!
The BEST article I have seen written to date. Covers the ambiguity and with the holiday season approaching your article and views are so important to help others. I can personally relate. A former Director of Marketing in a town that sees 2 – 4 million visitors a year. I can’t tell you how many days, I put on a “HAPPY” face. I have now found purpose, publishing my first book on suicide (a 3 year project) and have begun to speak publically. Unfortunately, stigma is alive and thriving particularly in Arizona. Keep writing. You have a gift, unique approach and such an important message to share with others.
I wish people knew that mental Illness isn’t contagious. It is however, hereditary. In my family it goes back many generations. I have bipolar disorder as does my identical twin sister. We also have depression with anxiety disorder. Unfortunately we live together. It is very challenging. I had two choices, here or homeless. I thank God everyday that I have a roof over my head and enough to eat.
We both take medication, I have been on mine longer than she has. I also can tell when she better get the doc on the phone. Suicide lives very close to me. There are too many to count. So I am happy that people are becoming more aware. The only thing is, my grown son fails to add it to who I am. My grown daughter has had to “keep an eye on me” and excepts it as truth. The man I was to marry, we we’re together for 8 years, had a heart attack and died instantly. I was in mourning for a very long time. My daughter looked for grief counseling for me. Several years later she told me she was afraid I wasn’t going to make it. But here I am, 12 years down the road. Anniversaries are hard. My family and friends and I talk about him so we have that and I am grateful. We all miss his laugh the most. Enough of that, it’s just part of who I am and it sits with me too. So you can’t see my physical or mental Illnesses and it is so frustrating. But I try to get out off bed every morning and get dressed. Take my medicine and plan something for the day. It’s the best I can do. Sorry about the rant.