“But you were fine yesterday?”
I can’t count the number of times people have showed their ignorance when trying to support someone who’s struggling with mental health. Whether it’s been a comment said to me directly – or to my friends – I find it shocking that mental health is still one of the most poorly understood diseases globally.
We’re all human and we all experience bad days, but illnesses like depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder are not just ‘one-time’ diseases or ‘bad days’; instantly fixable and curable if you attend numerous therapy sessions and pop countless pills. Recovery from mental illnesses is not linear – and in all honesty, I don’t feel one can ever overcome it completely when they’re pre-disposed to it and have battled with it for most of their life.
It’s the lack of understanding and empathy people give to those with illnesses they can’t see that really gets to me. A person suffering from poor mental health doesn’t have had to experienced a life-altering event – it can be as a result of anything from chemical imbalances, trauma to a core belief system that wasn’t set up in the right way. Whatever it is, I can guarantee you that the person going through it didn’t wish this upon themselves and are probably trying the very best they can to keep moving forward and putting one foot in front of the other.
I never asked for the raft of illnesses I’ve faced during the course of my life and trust me when I say this, but some of the people you’ll come across, who are battling illnesses of the mind, are probably some of the strongest people you’ll ever meet. I have watched friends and loved ones struggle with what appeared to be insurmountable problems, but the strength and resilience they displayed is more than what I’ve seen in some of the top leaders of the world.
Instead of saying to someone, “but you have so much to be grateful for”, “you’re absolutely fine and you will be fine” and “get a grip love” – why don’t more people ask “what can I do to help?” Or better yet, “I hear you, I’m with you and we’ll get through this together.”? The sad thing about mental health is that because it is all literally in the mind, it can be a very scary and isolating place when you’re in the throes of it. Feeling like no-one understands you and like there’s no evidence of the pain you feel can be one of the hardest things a mental health sufferer faces. The feeling that you’re crazy, that you shouldn’t be sad and that your pain isn’t physical is the reason so many people feel the need to end their life.
I’ve been in that spot – more times than I’d like to admit – and I can tell you that when a person is feeling that low, they’re not doing it from a place of self pity with a victim mentality. Sure, they might be doing it as a cry for help, but is that so bad? The sad thing is, I don’t ever feel that mental health will be treated in the same way physical conditions are and that’s okay. Everyone’s on their own journey and it’s not my job to make people understand, but it is my duty to speak up when I see stuff happening that is not conducive to a more compassionate and understanding society. It’s my right to speak up when I feel that not enough consideration is given to people who are fighting debilitating diseases that you can’t even see. I’ll continue to use my voice to spread awareness of mental health because ultimately, if we can just make one more person feel less alone, then isn’t that half the battle?
Recovery is not linear but what in life actually is? The journey to wholeness and wellbeing is bumpy and the management of mental health conditions can be far from easy, but it’s not impossible. You see, I don’t think the world needs to be rid of it. It would be fabulous if it could, but the reality of the situation is that the world we live in is broken and without the pain, feeling joy would be redundant and without darkness, how could we shine a light? Life is paradoxical and everything is interdependent. Spending time in the valleys of loss, heartbreak and sadness provides you with a better perspective, strength and fortitude. It ultimately allows you to enjoy the view when you do get to the top. The journey however, can come in different forms for everyone – just because it’s not the same, doesn’t mean it’s wrong and just because it’s not continuously upwards, doesn’t mean that person’s not trying.
So, next time you want to throw a careless comment at someone or offer some advice, think twice. You have no idea what the person might be going through and what if the thing you said could be the ticket that throws them over the edge?
Be kind, spread love and fly,
The Confused Butterfly
Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.