IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME NOT TO!
Its kind of ironic actually, I am not a social media person. Believe it or not I never really enjoyed social media. I never used Instagram for a personal account and very rarely touched Facebook. I still do in my personal world. I am a very private person. Again ironic considering I make my life public. So how did I come to share my life so openly, honestly and publicly with the world? IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME NOT TO!!
I have always talked openly and honestly about my life and when I got sick I saw no reason to hide it. People had always listened to what I had to say. Eagerly engaged with every word I spoke. A trait I thought everyone had until people started pointing it out and calling it a unique gift. Not everyone has a voice or the ability to make people listen they told me. It was then I decided I had a duty to make sure the words I spoke were of value. If I truly did have a talent to make people listen then I should use it for something good.
I always wanted to change the world. It wasn’t until I got sick that I found a cause I wanted to devote my life to. The more I struggled and the more I faced the ignorant stigma around Mental Health the more passionate I became to stand my ground. I was sick of being shut down or told to shut up. I got sick of people belittling my struggle and I got fed up with the people closest to me acting like I was the only one in the world with issues or that I was making it all up. Those experiences ignited a fiery determination in me. I didn’t understand why people didn’t want to talk about it. How could they not care? I had something important to say and they didn’t want to hear it. They wanted to silence me and I didn’t know why? I racked my brain trying to find an explanation. I begged them for years to give me one. But my cries for help always seemed to fall on deaf ears. People began to distance themselves from me. Avoiding me as if I had come down with a highly infectious disease. (Note to Readers: You can’t catch Depression) Mental Illness is not a contagion! Although many believe figuratively it is just a harmful idea or theory that is dangerous to encourage.
I began to wonder why in this day and age with such Mental Health awareness, how people could still outright deny its existence? How are we so ignorant and naive?! Then there are those that will accept the possibility of its existence but have such preconceived ideas about what Mental Illness should look like that if you don’t fit the stereotype of a “CRAZY” person then you are just accused of making it all up! Our diagnosis’s fabricated and our symptoms nothing more than a ploy to prove our own made up story. Pretending to be sick and willingly throwing my life away they sigh. But WHY? For attention they say accuse. What type of attention do they think I get??
People accuse me of wanting to be this way. But those of us who know this struggle know very well this isn’t the case. Who would voluntarily want to be this way? This existence is HELL. We don’t live or have the opportunity to thrive. We barely even survive! I felt like I was drowning with everyone else standing around. Unwilling to lend a hand. No one was going to rescue me. They either didn’t think I was worth saving or denied I was in trouble. I had just lost my way they told everyone else around me. I felt like I had to prove to everyone I was sick just so I could get the help I needed. For a long time it didn’t work. They didn’t believe me. But I persisted and I still don’t know for the life of me why I did. I guess something inside of me was not willing to admit defeat.
Deflated I found the courage to reach out to doctor after doctor, friend after friend, family member after family member and got different versions of the same response. Try not to think about it, just put a smile on your face and you will be alright. I know it must have come as a shock. I was so good at pretending I was OK and I had been doing it for so long they had no idea of the gravity of my situation and how close I really was to the edge. It was years later I realised what was missing from Mental Health awareness campaigns. It wasn’t just a matter of telling people Mental Illness exists and encouraging them to reach out. People needed to know the definition of what it means to not be OK because everyone is different. To me it means I’m about to go home and swallow a bunch of pills and run my car off the road. To others it means I just had a shit day at work.
I realised it wasn’t so much that people didn’t want to talk about it, they just didn’t know how. It was when I began talking about it like what I ate for lunch that I realised there was a hell of a lot of people who were yearning to learn. Who opened up to me because my non judgmental persona gave them the courage to test the waters and share their own personal struggles. I also realized a lot of people by nature compare themselves to others and their struggles. We all don’t want to make a big deal out of something that seems so insignificant to the greater issues in the world. Even as a child we are told to think about how lucky we are that we have food on the table, a roof over our heads and clothes to wear compared to the kids in a third world country. We feel guilty seeing our struggles as inferior to others. But on the other hand there is an attitude I came across where we think acknowledging the struggles of another undermines our own. Its not a competition.
Struggles should not be ranked in significance or judged in the grand scheme of things. That wont take away my despair. It only seemed to make things worse like nobody cared. I was fighting to prove I was sick to get attention. I was fighting for people to take me seriously because I didn’t want to live this way. I was told that I functioned too highly to get the help I needed. Breaking down, falling apart or admitting I had a problem didn’t make me weak like people thought. It was a sign of being strong for too long.
Despite the very real symptoms of my illness people saw they still didn’t believe Mental Illness was the cause. They came up with their own completely false and outrageous explanations for my behaviour. They refused to believe anything else! Perhaps they didn’t know the signs of each of my diagnosis’s. Or perhaps like me at first they just assumed it was something that happened to THEM not me. How wrong they were. Its more common than you think! 1 in 4. Although I like to remind people its more like 1 in 2 will struggle with some form of Mental Illness in their life because the statistics we have aren’t based on the amount of people suffering, just the amount of people who seek medical treatment. Alone, collapsed on my bedroom floor or lying down in the shower. I hid my pain well. What they all saw was just the tip of the iceberg and I was cruising on the titanic. A one way ticket to the bottom of the ocean.
What I found the hardest part of it all was being made to feel like I was alone, an outcast or a freak. A disappointment they told me, although they didn’t need to, I saw it in their eyes. I couldn’t avoid it. Judgement was everywhere I went. I felt like a failure. I put myself down. Why can’t you just get your shit together like everyone else? I became a Mental Health Advocate kind of by accident. I was manic at the time and in my heightened state of euphoria, outrageous confidence and sexual promiscuity I concocted a plan to make my narcissistic ex boyfriend that destroyed my self worth jealous. I took pictures of myself in revealing outfits, I wanted to get attention to prove to the world I was worthy, I was likeable and make myself feel good. That didn’t last long.
I just got over seeing everyone ease’s highlight reel on social media and realised I had played a part in it. The more down I was the more often I posted about how awesome my life was just to keep up. What I don’t understand is that if we all do it why don’t we call each others bluff? Why don’t we admit its just a sham? I guess no one wants to risk admitting it first in case they really are the only one with a shitty lie they are trying to cover up.
It just got to a point I was so exhausted of the mask I had created to hide my pain. I was sick of getting notified about how awesome everyone else’s lives were while I sat at home depressed as hell. While I battled homelessness drug and alcohol addiction, financial distress and worst of all…Trying to find a reason to stay alive that countered the overwhelming agony of my existence. Was I really the only one? Posting selfies claiming to be so happy when I wasn’t. Walking outside taking a picture pretending I had actually left my house that day. Getting dolled up for a night out and posting a photo with the caption “so excited to hit the club tonight with my awesome friends!” when I didn’t actually have the courage to socialise or even leave my house.
Sitting in my bathtub for hours with cuts on my wrist so angry that I wasn’t perfect like everyone else. Hating myself. Avoiding mirrors because I despised myself. I was sick of feeling like I was the only one in the world whose life had gone up in flames. I was sick of feeling so alone because I didn’t know one person that could relate to my struggles or the things I faced. Or at least people who were brave enough to admit it. My life wasn’t perfect, far from it. It was a disaster and I was a mess. I was sick of being made to feel ashamed of myself because I couldn’t get it together no matter how hard I tried. I felt like a broken mirror, broken into tiny pieces, shards too sharp to put back together.
I didn’t expect anything from telling it how it is. It was my private stand against fake people. If people had stopped listening to me because they didn’t talk about an issue we needed to talk about then I wasn’t going to be silenced like they wanted. I wasn’t going to shut up. I was going to keep talking. If my own family didn’t want to hear me out, then I was going to make the whole damn world listen. Maybe then they would finally take me seriously. So far…they haven’t. I’m OK with that now. I have accepted them for who they are and the fact they will never be who I want them to be or who they should be(I just wish they would offer me the same courtesy) My family made love and acceptance conditional of me playing their game. There was always an ultimatum. How could you expect us to accept you for the person you? Its not us, its you. We would love you and accept you if you were who we wanted you to be. All I ever wanted was for them to see my potential and not my flaws to accept me for who I was. I never felt like I fit in and I saw that as a bad thing. Until someone told me, I was born to stand out.
The mentality in our society, it doesn’t count unless u post about it, it’s not real unless it’s Facebook official, it didn’t happen unless u post a photo on Instagram, life doesn’t exist unless people know about it. I’ve always been incredibly open and honest but I was keeping a big secret for fear of people looking at me worse than they already did for what they could see. What would they think of me if they knew what was inside my head? Desperately I wanted people to know what I experienced behind closed doors because that was 99 percent of my life! I didn’t expect anyone to care or even respond. Although I hoped loved ones would. It’s ironic really. No one did. My worst fears were confirmed when their ignorance in real life was just as strong when they could read the truth, the dark depths of my torment. That hurt. But something incredible happened. I found a community of people that did care. Who could relate and showed their support in bucket loads.
People criticised me for speaking openly and honestly about my mental health. “no one will want to be around you, no one will want to know you” “don’t make that public you should be ashamed of it!” or that I’m using it to get attention. Why on earth would I publicly seek attention for my mental illness in a society that negatively stigmatises such ailments? Why would I broadcast something to the world knowing very well it is ammunition to be used against me to discredit me or make me seem unreliable? To make people view me in the way we all know they do mental illness?
I didn’t set out to help people. I still don’t believe I do. But It makes me so incredibly happy when people tell me that they feel a lot less alone. A lot less like I did. Our illness is hard but it is so much harder when u sit on the floor of your shower feeling alone and defective because no one talks about mental health. In a moment it changes my perspective on my illness. Suddenly I am not ashamed and I can see how everything I have been through has made me into the person I am today. It helps me accept my ailments. I believe in leading by example. Being the change u want to see in the world. I think mental illness should be talked about so I talk about it. Because the biggest problem I think is that people don’t know how to talk about it. We don’t have vocabulary to express what’s really going on. So we avoid it which is a terrible shame. That is what I have dedicated my life to changing. I think any conversation about mental health has the potential to be life changing! So I share my story to help people not only understand but give them the material they need to express their own struggles in a way people can understand.