Mental illness, looks like unmade beds, unwashed hair, personal hygiene that somehow gets lost in time… The energy and the will to have a shower, to brush your teeth, to eat something, has long but faded to the back of your thoughts. Time loses all meaning to you. Was that a minute that just passed by, or was it another year? The years are flying by now, with my main goal, in getting better; Feeling so incredibly far from my reach…
I used to catch glimmers of bright lights, dancing on the horizon. And I used to run. I would run, as fast and as hard as I could, towards this hopeful bright future. Never quite managing to catch these beautiful bright rays. But always promising myself; next time, I will… Now days, it’s pitch black, in every direction I turn and look. There is no light to be seen. As I trip and stumble my way around this nightmarish place, blinded by the darkness. The deep sinking feeling inside my heart, growing ever increasingly greedy to escape this hell in which I now exist.
People, used to say to me, “But you don’t look mentally ill. You don’t look like you are depressed.” Well then, I would think to myself, I’m a far better actor than I thought possible. Because for years and years, I have been able to paint a smile on my face, immerse myself in the other person; I find other people fascinating, and for a minute or so, I can belong in their world. You become a master of deception. Holding yourself together, but only just, at the seams.. You have to hold this secret, this torment which is part of your true identity; And you have to hide it from the sight of others, because it’s your shame, and your guilt, and it whispers foul, death things, into your ear.
You learn to say, “I’m fine” You learn how to push people you love, away… You do it, because you have to save them from the reality, of which is yourself. So to me, mental illness, can look any number of ways. It can be your laugh and your smile, as you talk to others, It can be the closed door, the self-induced isolation, the painful loneliness you have to endure. I do not live in a padded white cell, But in my mother’s white box room, at the back of the house. And here I lie, so lost, and so far from my goal… I just want to live, and be functional, again.
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Because no one should be made to feel worthless or ashamed, because of a mental health problem. Mental health problems affect us all, but still too many of us are losing friends, families and jobs because of them. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate, as I have such wonderful family and friends, who have stuck by me, and continue to help support me on my road to recovery and wellness. I feel extremely loved; and I know I am extremely lucky.
But however, I too have experienced this stigma. And I have to admit, it hurts. Losing friends and relatives because of a mental disorder – that I was born with, that I can’t control, and that I will have to learn to live with for the rest of my life – it just doesn’t seem fair to me. I don’t understand what I’ve done wrong… I hate the thought that my actions or behaviour, might have caused the slightest bit of upset, offence, or hurt, to anyone I love and admire.
I don’t want to cause any tension, or hatred, or for people to think that I am a danger to them. I want to get to the bottom of what causes this stigma. This fear of mentally ill people. And I think the best place to start, is to talk, and to listen to one another. Because no one should have to go through the pain and the misery of losing friends or family due to mental illness.