There is a common misconception about mental illness, it is this, if someone talks about it, they are just attention seeking. Or that someone with depression is cured when they start taking medication, or if they are smiling they are happy and well. An even worse misconception is that is someone talks about suicide or even jokes about it, that they are never going to follow through, again they are attention seeking, trying to get people to run around after them.
Depression is not all visible angst and suffering, but there is no beauty in depression either, and it does not discriminate. You can be young, or old, or in between, male or female, any ethnicity, any religion, it doesn’t care who or what you are, it finds you and takes away your very soul. Yet somehow the person being overtaken by this darkness often finds the ability to smile and laugh, to joke and to care for others, anything to try and convince themselves and others that everything is OKAY, everything is worthwhile.
It can be so confusing, for others, and for the one struggling with this disease, to know that smile does not mean someone is happy, laughter and jokes often are used as a way to hide a broken soul. Medication is a support, my doctor describes it as crutches, something to be used when your leg is broken, it doesn’t fix the problem, it simply aids you to be able to get around until you can heal (if you ever heal). And here is the deal, if depression or anxiety is about attention seeking, why do most who suffer from this horrid illness spend most of their life trying to hide it? Why are the scars of self harm meticulously hidden? Why are the mentions of suicide hidden in poor attempts at humor, if mentioned at all? If it is attention seeking, why does the person feel drained of all life in the effort it takes to appear “normal” each day?
I saw a quote the other day and it was so poignant that it has stuck in my head, it said “The thing about a broken clock is that you know exactly what time it stopped, with a person, you don’t even always know that they are broken at all.”. Do you know who is broken? Who is struggling? Who’s arms hide scars? Do you know who has a note tucked away that says goodbye to their most precious loved ones? Chances are it is the person you would least expect, the one who laughs and smiles and helps, the one who makes jokes and looks like their life is in order.
Our perspective in life is often so narrow, we see only a small amount, it is incredibly hard to try and read peoples actions. No one can be blamed for missing signs, no matter how clear they may be in hindsight. Learning to remove the misconceptions and stigma around mental health is key though. Healthy people don’t kill themselves, the disease they are fighting called depression or anxiety takes their lives sometimes. They didn’t choose it, maybe they softly asked for help while their mental illness screamed at them that they did not deserve anything from anyone.
Change starts with us. No matter who we are or what we have going on, change starts right here. The story is not over..