When I think about my life, I often focus on the negatives. It’s easier to do that, isn’t it? Sad and negative experiences have a bigger impact on our brain and tend to stick around for longer than the nice ones.
I’ve got an awful lot to be sad for if I peer beneath the outer layers that mask what’s really going on inside. I’ve missed out on so many opportunities and experiences such as going to university, sharing holidays with friends and spending time with family members in their twilight years. I’ve also never experienced what it’s like to work, to earn a living, to feel like I have a purpose. There has been a succinct lack of ‘raison d’être’.
All of these things that I’ve mentioned, and probably many more that I’ve forgotten to include, can all be attributed to mental illness. Yeah alright, other factors have come into play throughout the years as well. But overall, my poor mental health has been my undoing. Getting a diagnosis of OCD and Depression at 15 years old changed my life in an instant. Although I’ve probably had behaviours and traits of OCD since I was very young, it only became a life-altering problem in my mid teens.
Mental illness doesn’t choose a particular kind of person. It doesn’t care whether you’re rich or poor, what colour your skin is, whether you believe in god or trust in science or what gender you identify as. It couldn’t give a toss if you’re already suffering or if you’ve never experienced pain. It’s indiscriminate. It’s invisible. And, contrary to what people would like to believe, it’s a killer. Suffocating people in silence, watching them drift further away from everyone they love, as hope fades and the light grows dim.
Granted, I paint a very bleak picture of what life is like when you have to juggle all the regular struggles on top of being mentally ill. Unfortunately, for a lot of people who are grappling with mental illness, the picture is bleak, it is hopeless, it is isolating. That is why we must take advantage of days like today. Where the world opens its eyes and ears to us. Where we feel we have a voice because so many of us are shouting at the same time and speaking out against the stigma. There appears to be this taboo, a wall of shame, guilt, fear and embarrassment.
However, through all of the misery and darkness and the black hole we find ourselves in, there is hope. Talking and sharing and supporting each other is, in my opinion, the absolute best way to tackle mental illness. It likes to force us into believing that we are completely alone but this is simply not the case. The mental health community is fantastic and people are willing to give their time and energy so easily for others who are in need. I am not my mental illness. It doesn’t define me.
You are not alone.