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I am not good enough. I am not worthy of love. I am not smart enough. I am not successful enough. I am not slim enough. I am not pretty enough.
Living with a mental illness can be extremely isolating and lonely. The relationship is two-way: others may not reach out as you have been understandably distant due to feeling unwell, and you may not contact others for the same reasons. It’s a vicious cycle.
Though mental illness is at the forefront of the media today, there are still many people living in ignorance, fueling a stigma around mental illness that still hasn’t lifted. Everyone has a different life and therefore a different battle to fight every day.
We have no idea what is happening behind closed doors or even worse, inside closed minds. Our minds can be a scary place at times. When they don’t allow us to function in our day to day routine, we start to see the cracks in the perfect exterior.
Remarks like “Get over it” or “Everything will be okay” do not compute in the mind of those with mental health problems. They can come from those closest to us, like our parents, or the friends and colleagues who have never experienced mental illness. They try to be sympathetic but the words they choose to use can sometimes feel like a knife in the back.
There are certain chemicals overloading our system that shouldn’t be, that can make us spiral into despair within our own minds, like a row of dominoes pushed to fall, it’s inevitable and more often than not, we have pushed them to fall ourselves.
Sometimes it isn’t as straightforward as “How are you?”, as we are so used to saying “Fine, thanks” in response. There are people who are naturally reserved, and one ask alone wouldn’t be inviting enough for them to talk about things that are bothering them from within. This is likely due to the stigma around talking about negative feelings and thoughts, ones that everyone has but feels too ashamed to share.
Usually close friends ask how the weekend was, how university is going, what kept the other busy during the weekend. This invites the other person to start talking about anything so that I might start to open up about how they’ve been doing. They are able to show the inflicted person that people around do want to listen to him/her, leaving the door open to discuss what he/she feels.
There are definitive moments and decisions in my life that have led up to my diagnosis of anxiety and depression. It may come as a surprise to some people but those like me with a mental illness can have the ability to be strong willed.
However, this is the quality in a person that leads to silence, the “I can sort this myself” or “No one needs to know” voices in your head. This is also the quality that means there will never be any substance abuse, alcohol, drugs or even eating disorders, because these can be seen by others, your change in character noticed by those close to you.
More and more this illness has affected my life. Though unknown to others, it makes one retreat into one’s own mind when young, generating feels of being an introvert.
Ultimately, the inflicted person constantly tries to seek approval from those around him/her in an attempt to make and keep friends by impressing them so as to show how an individual was worthy of their friendship. It makes them strive for perfection in everything I do but if I didn’t receive the acknowledgement, I put myself down, to the point where I wondered if I should even be breathing.
When the one who claims to love you can make you feel so alone, in despair and unworthy of life; there’s a small part of you that disappears into darkness that you can never get back.
In my recent revelations I have learnt that sharing my story and talking about my mental health has helped others. I think it’s time to share my story with everyone so that something good can come out of something so dark.
To anyone reading this, remember it is ok to not be ok. It is ok to seek help. It is ok to speak out. Please do not suffer in silence. Silence is painful, soul destroying and will never help you. You are not letting your parents down if you tell them you’re struggling. You do not become anything less to your true friends when you tell them you’re not doing so well. You will always have someone thinking of you because those with mental illness are never alone. If there are 7 people in a room with you, chances are one of them is struggling too.
The #AskTwice campaign can have such a widespread effect, as not only does it give a platform for those who are unwell to be listened to, but it makes us all aware that not everyone is “Fine” all the time.
One reason the stigma around talking about mental health persists is that often people feel they don’t know what to say to someone who is struggling. However, all that is needed is the ability to listen – you don’t need to try and fix the problem. Check in with friends and make sure to #AskTwice to show that you really do care and are ready to listen.
Break the silence. Break the stigma.