Disclaimer: Very long post
Some times I don’t think People really understand what it’s like to have a mental illness. Why would they? It’s complicated. When someone has an illness you can see or an illness that is talked about more, they because easier to understand. When someone we care about has a cold or the flu, we worry about him or her. Family will make sure they have soup or tea or medication or that they are drinking enough. Even people you don’t see or talk to often will ask you how you are feeling and tell you its okay to miss something if you have to.
If it’s a more serious sickness such as cancer or MS or ALS or heart conditions, whole communities will band together. Which is fantastic, don’t get me wrong, that is how it should be. When one of your own is suffering with something like that, your human instincts kick in. I’m not sure if it is the years of learning and understanding these illnesses through scientific studies, or if it is that you can run tests and see the results that something is wrong. Maybe it is just that you can see what it is doing to that person, just how much it reeks havoc on a system. Human instincts kick in. its heart warming to see how people will do little things to help out a family, or just to let that person know someone is there. So why is it that we don’t do the same with mental illness’s? Once again, I want to say that I am not making light of other illnesses; I am just trying to explain how serious this illness can be too.
Society is getting better in some cases, but at the same time, a mental illness is something people will look down on or make light of. There are a few known causes of an MI: Genetics, Chemistry, Physical/emotional trauma, and Environmental stress. The thing is, we tend to for get the first two. I always hear that you had to have a major trauma in or life or it must be environmental and if it is environmental then it’s all in your head and you can get over it. It’s so much more complicated then that, while in some causes it can be triggered by those, they are usually not the sole cause. I mean how can I change my chemistry or genetic make up just so I can “get over” just a “little bit of sadness”. If I had a dollar for every time I heard or my parents heard these phrases, we could pay off my student loans.
- “Are you sure she’s not faking it for attention?”
- “Its just a little stress you can get over it”
- “You’re being a drama queen, its not that bad”
- (In relation to Bella) “But you look fine so there can’t be anything wrong with you”
- “You’re not going to go crazy on me and do something bad are you?”
- “You’re (she’s) just being lazy”
Honestly those are just a few. We live in a world that looks down on a serious illness because we don’t understand and because its not easily fixed. Media Villainies mental illness, people brush depression off as lazy or for attention, anxiety and OCD is written off as being too controlling and “a neat freak” and most of the time if we cant see it, its not there. This recently came to play for me when my sanity was questioned or made light of because someone else messed up.
Because of these phrases, many others and I try to hide their illness and pretend it is okay for the comfort of others. But, I want you to know what it is really like. To know how truly debilitating and exhausting it can be. Remember this is my experience and everyone’s fight is different.
One of my bad but not worst days:
I set 4 alarms the night before and keep hitting snooze on all of them until I get to my car for work. This is not because I am lazy; this is because it takes my body that long to not be lethargic. My mind is constantly fighting its self and it is exhausting so even in the mornings I don’t feel rested. Any way, the first alarm goes off and I turn on the light right away. The second alarm goes off and reminds me I need to get out of bed soon. Bella at some point gets on the bed and starts trying to get me up. Part of this is because the thought of what might happen is paralyzing. What if I can’t focus, or is today going to be a good day or a bad day. Finally I get up but between getting ready, I usually start an anxiety episode because I just don’t want to do any thing. By now a headache kicks in which makes me more anxious (how bad will it be today) by now, Bella has pushed me back on the bed and does a quick DPT to calm me down. I get up, pack breakfast, feed Bella, recheck my meds I have to take to work and recheck that I packed breakfast because maybe I didn’t finish. We get done and walk out the door. In my car I recheck my purse and my lunch (breakfast/snack box). I turn off the last alarm and go to work.
At work (while working) I eat breakfast and take my meds. I have 6 pills I take in the morning. An hour later brain fog kicks in and I take a 5-minute break while Bella does her task to wake me up and try to lift the fogginess. Brain fog is exactly what it sounds like. My limbs get heavy and I feel like my head is underwater. Its like I am going to pass out and I repeat steps or cant do them because my heart slows down and feels like it will just stop. On a bad day, I wonder how bad that would be. Bella finishes task work; I have a little caffeine and an apple and get back to work.
While working I have random thoughts of “you are so worthless, they are going to fire you, you shouldn’t be here, why aren’t you at home, that project turned out horrible, ugh I am making Bella work again, she probably hates me, yeah she definitely hates me. All while doing my Job, I am good at letting these thoughts be my background noise; I listen to audio books to drown them out. By the time it is lunchtime I get home and collapse on my couch. How I will go back I don’t know. Lunch makes me feel a little better and I go back to repeat my morning. Luckily the fog is worst in the morning so the afternoon doesn’t feel as much of a failure. By the time I get home, it is all I can do to feed Bella. I usually get anxious over my day and doing it tomorrow. I feel horrible because there are nights I latterly cannot move or do anything with Bella. When it nears bed time, I pack my meds for the morning, get some stuff ready and dread going to bed because its time to think and what if I have nightmares. I take my night meds (5 pills) and lay in bed with the light on because what if someone breaks in. finally Bella makes me turn out the light, my meds kick in and I fall asleep.
That is a short version of a normal day. When it’s a really bad day, the thoughts of worthlessness and the thoughts of self harm or in some cases suicidal thoughts are a never ending sound track to my day. Then I feel guilty for feeling like people would be better with out me because my rational mind reminds me that I have people who love me unconditionally. This may sound like an over reaction. But this are every day assurances for people with MI’s. Sometimes I have rapid mood swings so bad I make a teen-age girl going through puberty seem like a walk in the park. Just ask my fiancé and my family how hard it can be to keep up with me during those episodes. I once cried because I couldn’t decide on salad dressing. My brain is constantly at war with its self, the rational part fighting the irrational part. But that is a battle I have every day.
Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because the next time you ask someone with an MI how they are doing, let him or her know you support them. Don’t say it’s not that bad or that that they are making a mountain out of a molehill, they probably already know that, I always do. Instead, We need just as much encouragement and compassion as others. If you know some one who is struggling please let them know there is help available. Even if that help is just you sitting while they cry. We are human too. I would like to end this by thanking all the people that I have out there that support me. I am lucky to have an amazing fiance and a close nit family relationship (both with my family as well as with my new family). Not to mention the friends that have stuck by me and weathered the storm. I know it can be easier to walk away like others have, but I thank god everyday for the people that still stand by me. It’s my hope that others like me can have relationships like this too.
So, thank you to all my readers for listening and for those of you that need to hear this, I love you know matter your struggle and am always hear as a friend who understands.