With last weeks loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, we saw another outpouring of people commenting on mental health. Some of those were people encouraging those of us that struggle to reach out. Some of those were people passing judgment, as though we have control over our mental health.
I did finally see a few posts however that actually addressed something I have pointed out previously. Those of us dealing with a mental health crisis don’t know we need to reach out. Or we don’t value ourselves enough to do so. We legitimately think everyone would be better off without us.
Here’s the problem. Mental illness is still not treated as a disease in this country. You wouldn’t be told by someone to just cheer up and your cancer will go away. But those of us that suffer from mental illness are told things like that constantly.
“Just cheer up”
“It could be so much worse”
“You have nothing to be sad about”
On and on and on….
We’re not taken seriously. Society as a whole doesn’t recognize the fact that our brains are ill and we can’t help or control our thought processes. We’d love it if we could.
As many know, I have major depressive disorder. One of the ways this surfaces for me is in rumination. I obsess over negative things and thoughts. Sometimes those negative thoughts circle around the idea that I’d be better off dead. Now, I have never acted on this desire, and logically even when it’s happening I know I shouldn’t act on it. This gets me clinically ranked as passively suicidal. I am not a danger to myself or others, but I am suicidal because I have invasive thoughts wishing I was dead.
I don’t want to have those thoughts. I don’t want to ruminate and focus on thoughts like that. But the problem is I have a disease that forces my brain to not only think like that, but to focus on it and not let it go. It’s very disorienting and disheartening. Most people are even shocked that I have this issue. If you’ve met me in person you know I am best known for being super loud, outgoing and giggly. I’m that person that everyone always comments on how strong I am, and how well I manage things.
Here’s the reality though, mental illness isn’t just someone crying in a corner. Or that’s just gone through a major tragedy. It’s your coworker that seems cheery every day. It’s your cousin that seems to have it all together. It’s the rich and famous and the homeless person you see begging on a street corner. The point here is, it’s someone you know, and it isn’t always obvious.
So what do we do? Be kind. Everyday. We’re all struggling, and not all of us share what is going on.