Saturday, October 10, 2015

Gonna talk about mental illness. Not gonna be cheerful.

So there's this "mental illness awareness" push going on. 

I think it's great, but it also frustrates me, because it feels like "mental illness" has become a sort of code word or even synonym for "depression."

In both my opinion and my experience, this misses the mark.  There are many times that depression itself is either a symptom or a side effect (or both) of a particular mental illness. 

Being open about depression is still different from being open about a mental illness, where, for instance, you have to lie in bed for several minutes after you wake up trying to figure out how old you are and what year it is and once you do that, figure out how many other people of varying ages you're sharing headspace with on this particular day, and reassuring them all that where they are today is safe, so you can stand up and get out of bed.  And then maybe one of the people you live with who isn't a morning person frowns on their way past you on the stairs, and you have to start all over again.

Or one (this one doesn't happen to me personally) where you love to have people over, but if someone puts their street shoes on your couch, your brain instantly becomes an uninterruptable loop of "germs germs germs must clean clean now germs germs GERMS" and then you don't get to visit anyway because that part of your brain just took over your entire personality and yet you know if you SAY anything, your company will laugh it off and suggest you lighten up.

We'd sort of prefer it if people didn't talk about those kinds of mental illnesses.  They make us nervous. There's no box for them.

It's just so much easier to put mental illness in the "Depression" box.  We understand it, and we're pretty sure there's even a pill for it.  It can all be fixed and tidied up and we don't really have to work out a response.

Those other mental illnesses, a lot of which ALSO lead to suicide ideations ?  Let's put those ones in a different box, maybe a box labelled "Get Professional Help and while you're at it, hand me some earplugs."  That's a good box for those ones.


Addy Oberlin said...

Thank you for sharing Susan. I think both depression and mental illness are difficult to understand. It's much easier to deal with a broken leg.

Marcia Laycock said...

Oh so true. I had a friend who was schizophrenic. When someone asked how he was doing he'd say "I'm just fine but that guy with the black eyes whispering in your ear looks like he could use a drink." He didn't have many friends.

Bailey said...

Hi Susan, good to hear from you.
As someone dealing (not terribly well) with depression, I do appreciate the perceived greater openness to talk about it. I don't, however, feel that there is necessarily greater acceptance of things other than depression and anxiety, which seem to be the poster children for mental illness. In my circle, I have people dealing with bipolarity, OCD, and other illnesses - I don't know that they feel any greater societal openness these days.