Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, they’re illnesses, but they aren’t like any other sickness. 

I spent most of last week in bed with the worst cold I can ever remember having. My whole body hurt; I was exhausted, had a headache, stomachache, sore throat, and stuffed sinuses. I subsisted on toast and soup.  A few great friends offered to bring me anything I needed and my husband doted on me hand and foot all week. 

Looking back, it’s hard not to see how different it is to be sick with a purely physical illness versus a primarily mental one.  No one expects you to get up and go to work when your contagious and in physical pain. But if the pain is primarily psychic, whether you believe that mental illness is as debilitating as cancer or you think that people should just pull themselves up by their boot straps, you probably still expect the afflicted person to show up to work on time.

No one wants to look at mental illness as a physical sickness, though it effects the brain as significantly as M.S. effects the body. Changing the way we treat, talk about, and react to mental illness would mean changing the way we expect people with mental illness to show up in the world. It means acknowledging a brand of suffering that is antithetic to life.

Just as we have had to change the way we treat interracial relationships and homosexuality in our society, so too do we have to change our view on mental illness. No one should be ashamed to admit they have struggled with depression, anxiety, or any of the slew of mental disorders on record. Young adults shouldn’t be committing suicide because they can’t or won’t ask for help. And the only way that will happen is if those of us who do struggle with mental illness reach out to each other and anyone who might be hurting and offer them our encouragement, advice, and help. No one is going to help us if we don’t help ourselves. The same has been true of minimized and depreciated populations for centuries.

Okay, I’ll get off my platform now. Thanks for reading.

-T 

Missing: Social Skills, If found, please call…

As my depression lifts and I start to feel more a part of the world, I find I’m experiencing something of a void. My life has been so dominated by mental illness for so long. Now there is a huge hole in my life where the depression once resided. I have more energy and am more interested in the world, but I don’t know what to do with that energy.

I am still afraid to commit to things and people. The depression has not disappeared completely; I still have days where it is hard to get out of bed. And never knowing when those days are going to crop up, I worry. And this makes it even harder to find things to do with my time. I am still living in the shadow of mental illness.

I spend time wandering around stores just for the experience of being out among people. I smother my husband with attention because he is the only person I see every day. Beyond that, I live much of my life alone.

I hope as my depression continues to lift that my social skills will find their way back to me.