Before I go any further I just wanted to point out that everyone lives with their mental illness differently, and what I’m going to describe and talk about is just how I feel, and how I live with it. I plan on being really blunt and unapologetic about my feelings, so bear with me if you want to read this.
I have depression and anxiety. And sometimes, it can be a horrible nightmare, though you probably won’t see it.
Have you ever felt like you didn’t have energy anymore, that you couldn’t do anything, that you simply didn’t have the strength? I feel like that almost every day. Going out of bed in the morning every day is a huge accomplishment. Going out of my room to go to the kitchen I share with five other people is an even bigger one. And going out of my flat an even greater one. And I always congratulate myself for that. It means I haven’t given up yet. Everything is a challenge. Walking to the bus stop? Talking to people? A challenge. Making food when someone else is using the kitchen? Perhaps the worst challenge of all.
I want to use examples of things my friends have told me to show how depression and mental illness are misunderstood, but also how they work – at least with me. And I’m not blaming my friends for what they said. It’s just to illustrate that they really don’t understand. And in a way, it’s good for them. Because I don’t wish that on anyone else.
I wasn’t planning on making my article this way at first, but basically this is how it ended up after a while, so I decided to roll with it. In bold, you will find things that people have told me. And then, how I feel about it.
“I like to think a good friend is like a therapist. You can tell each other everything. It’s like you are each other’s therapist.”
THE. HELL. NO.
I have already talked about that in previous posts I believe. I don’t want to burden people with my depression. And though I’m getting more and more open about it, there are some things that are not for my friends to hear. And it’s normal. I have too much thoughts, and too much dark ones at that. A therapist knows how to deal with this. Of course I talk with my friends. But I can’t talk with them every time I feel like shit, because that’s basically all the time. Just because it’s unbearable for me doesn’t mean it should be unbearable for them as well.
And if you compare a friend to a therapist it probably means you don’t need a therapist anyway. However, please consider their feelings in that matter.
“I had four mental breakdowns last week.”
Girl you clearly don’t have any mental illness, talking with your friends helps just fine, and you just made it very clear. You also know I have real mental illness issues. We have talked about it. So please don’t go around using words that don’t fit. If you say that I’ll get really worried for nothing. It was clearly not a “mental breakdown” even if your life clearly has ups and downs. And it also makes me feel like my feelings are not valid. How many time to we need to say it: stop misusing mental illness terms when you don’t have an actual mental illness. It hurts.
“I just think you can train your brain to stop having those thoughts if you work really hard.”
Oh trust me I have tried. I can recognize those dark thoughts. I can recognize the symptoms that are coming from my depression most of the time. But oh how I wish I could make them go away. When someone tells you you suck, you can’t help but hear it. Even if you know it’s not true. You still hear it, and it hurts. Depression is like this. It’s like having a shadow in a corner of your mind dancing at your unhappiness, and feeding on your darkest thoughts, and telling you that you are worthless. The worse you get, the happier it gets. You can’t not see it. You can’t not hear it. It hurts. But you can’t do anything about it. It’s here, it’s always here. And yes, noticing that this unhappiness, these dark thoughts, all this spiraling down (and so on) comes from your depression and your mental illness is a step. You can, if you take a step back, realise that those thoughts are untrue. But you can’t stop thinking them no matter what. It’s okay. Your pain is valid. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. (I’m both telling myself and you if you also feel like this. Stay strong. We’ll get through this.)
“She told me you don’t share a lot.”
First of all it’s up to me what I share or not. Second of all I don’t want to burden her (we were talking about one of our common friends) because she is a precious human being who is also going through a lot. And third of all, these horrible things are hard to put into words. And I’m afraid no one will understand. And I don’t really want to talk about it, maybe, have you considered that? Talking about suicidal thoughts isn’t exactly easy. And then again, I have a therapist for that if I need to.
“I don’t know how you manage.”
Well trust me, neither do I. Though thank you, that is really comforting. Yes, there are also some positive things that I heard! And honestly, this is one of the most beautiful ones. By saying this you’re acknowledging my pain. And it makes me feel valid and stronger. And I want to go on.
“You’re such a strong person.”
This is something I don’t see myself. And having people tell me that is beautiful and troubling and comforting. Honestly I want to cry when people tell me that I’m strong. And a lot of my friends have told me that lately. It is the best compliment I have received. Please, if you have friends going through mental illness and problems, tell them that they are strong. They deserve to hear it. And be ready to hug them afterwards.
I think I will stop here for today because this article is already long enough. I just wanted to give you a bit of an insight of what it’s like to be in my head.
And don’t forget: