Hello dear reader(s)!
I will get to part III of Awakening tomorrow. But right now, I need to write about something that is on my mind. It is the failure of people without mental illness to take mental illness seriously.
I understand it is with good intent, but too many times I have seen, and been subject to someone attempting to relate to something they simply have no clue about. I’ll give you an example.
On Saturday, I decided to drive down to visit a family member in Portland. We’ll call him Ned, to protect his identity since he has powerful enemies and I would rather not contribute to any harm coming to him and an international incident from my blog-type-thing. I only feel comfortable giving the location because he will soon be deployed again anyway, and Portland is not his home.
Anyway, I kind of lost my phone, and then had a massive panic attack. And I got all kinds of great, and supportive comments. But I got a couple (that have since been deleted) that basically asked what the big deal was. I found my phone, and that should be that.
And for a person without PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, that might be all there is to it. But for me, my body actually physically makes me sick from the stress of it. The adrenaline spike followed by the adrenaline crash affects everything. It put me down the entire rest of the day, and the night. I was able to make the trip on Sunday, but just barely. And driving back on Monday, I pulled off the highway to get gas even though I calculated I did not need to just because the stress of traffic and the idiot drivers was getting to me and could make me a danger. Most people do not have to do that. They just drive through.
This isn’t about meditation (although I know that can help to manage it occasionally, for some people, in some cases), it isn’t about grounding (another great technique to help manage things, in some situations, if caught early enough), it isn’t about relaxation, or smiling, or seeing the bright side. I have an illness, wherein my body (starting with my brain, which is part of the body, for your information) causes me to react to little stressors as if they were life and death issues. Nine times out of ten, there is absolutely nothing I can do to hold that off, only to try to cut it short and deal with the results. Unless you have felt that, you literally have no idea what it is like, and might want to keep your mouth shut when someone is telling you they are suffering through it, aside from telling that person that they are safe, and that they are not bad people for having that issue.
In fact, I am actually getting tired of the term mental illness. The brain runs your body. Without it, you die. Between chemicals that act on the brain and just the rewiring of pathways, everything about “mental” illness is physical. Just because you can’t understand what it is like because you have been able to cheer yourself up out of being sad or stressed, does not mean that it isn’t real. My mental illnesses are just as real, and can occasionally be as debilitating as the cancer that brought them on.
I am not weak for being ill, just as I wasn’t for getting cancer. In fact, it makes sense that my brain treats everything like a life of death struggle after it literally was life and death, daily, for years. This isn’t weakness, it is an illness that may be able to be treated, and one day possibly could be cured once they learn more about it. Right now, they really don’t know much at all, as evidenced by the conflicting studies and results of many psychiatric medications. How the illness came to be, does not matter nearly as much that it is real, and can affect anyone. If you think I am weak for this, I would invite you to get cancer that seemingly has no cause, fight it for years, almost die multiple times, and then watch your wife die just as you begin to recover. Let me know how strong you are then.
Occasionally I will write posts with a positive message. I will try to tell people to keep fighting. That there is beauty in the darkness and can be found. And I truly believe that. But trust me, at no time am I under any illusion that someone can stop being depressed, or anxious, or dissociative, or just magically cure any other illness by simply being happy. When I post postive, it is to attempt to encourage someone to keep trying, to keep hanging on, for the value they add to the lives of others. Sometimes, it is merely things that occasionally help me when I am struggling, so that if it works for someone else, maybe it could make things less awful for them. I understand that not everything that works for me, works for someone else.
No amount of motivational quotes, ideas, and kind words is going to cure someone’s illness. You can offer your support to help the people you know who suffer, and try to remind them that all illnesses have ups and downs, good days and bad. But once you start placing expectations on them as a result of your words, you’re doing it wrong.
Quoth the Gump, “And that’s all I have to say about that.”