'Everyone is cool with mentally ill people around them until we start displaying symptoms they can't sympathise with.
You're sad all the time? Poor darling :-(
You're irrationally angry, defensive and paranoid? You say and believe things that just don't make sense? You seem to be a completely different person from day to day? Well now you're just being difficult'
I came across the above quote on twitter this morning. It practically screamed at me from the screen, because it encapsulates everything that is wrong (this is just my opinion of course) with how we view mental health issues, and how they are portrayed by the media.
I take real issue with the success stories that get so much coverage, as well as the very one sided portrayals of mental illness. Yes, they have their place. It's really good to know that people can and do recover from, or rather, learn to manage the symptoms of, mental illness. They give us something to aspire to. But what about when we're in the absolute depths? Depression that goes beyond mere sadness, anxiety that causes crippling panic attacks for no apparent reason? Attaining the dizzying heights of success that some of these people reach might as well be like trying to scale Everest in a blizzard with no equipment, no guide, and no climbing experience at all. In short, impossible, and doomed to fail.
Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe my attitude is making matters worse for me. Maybe I'm actually jealous of their success. But, even if that is the case, if I've learned nothing else from three years of blogging, it's that whatever I feel, someone else feels it too. So if the incredible success stories sometimes make me feel like an utter failure, chances are they're doing the same for someone else.
I love that we're talking more openly about mental health and occasional lack thereof, I really do. But I think we still need to look more at what the bad days are like, and how people get through those. Right now, as I type, I'm in my jammies with greasy hair and I suspect I smell a little. I look like absolute crap.
Yes, really. And this is a vast improvement on yesterday
The last few weeks have been incredibly challanging, I've been surviving and getting by more so than living. The only reason I'm even able to string a sentence today is because exhaustion took over last night and I went to bed at 8pm, with sleep made possible with the aid of drugs (of the prescribed variety, obviously). I've spent the last few days being the second person described in the above quote - the angry, irrational, mood ever changing, slightly paranoid one. The one that's an absolute nightmare to live with.
Then there's the support that is undoubtedly behind these success stories. The easy access to therapy or private psychiatry because cost isn't an issue. The ability to take time out as and when needed. So much of it comes down to money. There are so many things I could be doing to make myself feel better if I had more money, or didn't have a family. But I don't, and I do. So, I can't treat myself to meals out, or get my hair done, or go away for a night somewhere romantic with Hubby. I can't decide to sit down with a movie in the middle of the afternoon, or take myself off for a walk by the sea. Glass of wine in the bath? Sure, with constant interruptions from small people who would no doubt want to hop in with me. I'd also likely be sitting on various bath toys with a load of washing drying on the clothes horse beside me. Relaxing? Not so much. But that's my reality, that's what I have to work with.
Do you see what I'm getting at? I do realise I'm making sweeping generalisations here, and I'm not discounting the immense amount of work the success stories have to put in to get to where they are. Learning to manage mental illness is a massive uphill struggle, no matter who you are. But what I would like to see is a little more realism as well. A little more greasy hair, and messy houses, and failed exercise attempts. While not exactly motivating, they're real. And maybe when the great unwashed pull through and manage to get to the other side, or at least start on the road to the other side, they'll drag some of the other stragglers with them. Wouldn't that be something?