The Truth About Mental Illness

In a week where stigma fuelled tweets circulate the internet, followed swiftly by thousands of people firing back to suggest the recommendations were nothing short of ridiculous, I find myself struggling through a difficult evening feeling somewhat alone. This dark patch has got me fired up, so why not share this delight with you lovely lot!

A “user”, who will remain nameless because he doesn’t deserve the airtime even on a little blog like this, suggested that depression is a state of mind. “If you think differently, you won’t be depressed”. In their words, “if I’m hungry, I eat, therefore I’m no longer hungry. If I feel depressed, I think differently and then I’m not”. Now, first of all I’ve never heard such absolute bollocks in my entire life. Secondly, what it did show me was how misunderstood mental illness actually is. So much so, I felt compelled to educate people from my point of view on what mental illness ACTUALLY means, at least to me.

Mental illness by definition is a condition which causes serious disorder in a person’s behaviour or thinking, which basically points the illness to the brain, focussing on thoughts and emotional feelings. However, mental illness is so much more than that. Mental illness isn’t just in the brain, it spreads physical reactions which make mental illness so much more difficult to deal with.

As a person who suffers from an anxiety disorder, mental illness for me is way more than just thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, that’s where it starts, but those thoughts go on to create a physical reaction that people don’t even consider. The shakes, the sweating, the IBS, tight chest, palpitations, nausea, stomach cramps, muscle aches, headaches, tiredness. All of these physical symptoms are what I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis due to the way my brain processes thoughts.

Mental illness isn’t just fighting negative thoughts, it’s coping with feeling sick at the drop of a hat, dizziness, hyperventilation in restrictive situations, muscle aches due to constant tension, all while trying to fight negative thoughts through various therapy advice from multiple doctors.

This makes fighting mental illness so much more difficult, because you’re finding strength to battle through while suffering physically all the way. Do I dwell on these symptoms? No. If anyone asks, I have anxiety which makes things more difficult in certain situations. That doesn’t stop me feeling it though, while facing so much stigma along the way that can be alienating, as well as useless advice from people like “User” who’s word are not only ill-educated and completely unfounded but actually quite dangerous.

I’m tired of people with little-to-no experience dealing with or coping with mental illness telling me what I should feel, or what I should do to combat it. Unless qualified to do so, would they go up to a cancer patient and offer them medical advice? Would they work with a patient who broke their leg by putting on a plaster cast?

No. They wouldn’t, because they’re not qualified. So at what point did they assume that telling me to “go for a run” or to “think differently” would have any positive impact on the fight I’m dealing with where, at the moment, it’s multiple times during the day, every single day.

Mental illness is so much more than thought, which makes each and every one of you fighting it an absolute warrior. Some days, it doesn’t feel that way, and there is no shame staying in bed for three days in your own stench watching daytime tv and eating M&Ms. I know what you’re going through, you know what you’re going through, and it’s OK.

I’ll keep fighting, I’ll keep winning and eventually I’ll come out on top. While I’m doing that, if you’re compelled to offer me any advice of “just think differently”, make sure you educate yourself on exactly what someone with a mental illness is going through because if not, you’re redundant.

9 Comments

  1. “Just go for a run…” and similar nonsense. I’ve had massive panic attacks following exercise! Thanks so much for this post, you are so right, other people don’t get to define your experience.

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  2. Tears moisten my cheeks then slowly my sheet which I have pulled up to my chin as I read this post….this and others that I guess are connected to my very first post on here. I completely relate, understand, and feel like so many people I love just don’t understand, which has increased the amount of tears I shed drastically. My sheets stay moistened by my tears. I’m scared and worried but the amount of love I have for those who never understand is so much stronger than anyone could imagine. I’ve pushed through all the emotional and physical pain for my family…to take care of my family, only to be responded with words and/or actions that implied it was never enough….or worse….to have my symptoms (same as u described) put into the same category as a “User”…. Like the user you spoke of. He probably has the same physical pains as you and I, just without the uncontrollable emotional pain. It’s easy for him to just not think about things when he’s a user, but so not the case in your story, and definitely not in mine either. It’s sad,…so very sad. I still love those who have made me feel like nothing… like everything I’ve been through is my fault… I always have and I always will.

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  3. Thank you as always for sharing the harsh realities. It’s sad that we have to fight so hard because of the stigma attached but fight we will!

    To a degree, I can sort of understand the users thinking… but if only it were ‘that’ simple!!!! I pity them and hope one day they’ll ‘think differently’!!!!!

    Always here for you x

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  4. I totally agree with you. I used to watch Ted Talks and they would just piss me off because they were all about “Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life” BS. That’s like telling a cancer patient that if they change their mindset they won’t have cancer anymore. People are so stupid. Keep sharing your story and hopefully the stigma will decline over time.

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