new month. but not just any month because May is mental health awareness month. i remember writing one of the most vulnerable blog posts ever around a time like this last year. it is ironic that this month, more often than not, finds my mental health in shambles. to be honest i am jaded about all this mental health awareness stuff. a line from a poem i love says: to be jaded is to have earned your pessimism. i agree. in the past, i used to look forward to these sort of campaigns. i would share stories, tips and whatever knowledge i could. i knew that it mattered to actually participate in such ventures because they helped someone somewhere. but look at me now. i do not care about these campaigns. well i do care but just a tiny tiny bit. i suppose i am tired of this whole awareness thing because i happen to be on both sides. i live with mental illnesses, i have close friends with mental illnesses and on the other hand, i am supposedly working in this field. so i am doing the awareness as an objective matter, in a clinical way like a person who has majored in psychology. rightfully so. but my education does not take away how hard living with a mental illness is like. i remember telling a friend of mine i feel like i have no rest. outside, i am doing awareness and inside, here at home, i feel like i am doing awareness too when it comes to my family. which means i am always a bit burnt out and chronically fatigued. i long for a place i can just lay down. why can’t people seek this information for themselves? like seriously. i know that mental illnesses have varying degrees of severity among people, so it is prudent to find out how your loved one is actually affected. but that said, it does not mean that you will never raise a finger to go read on something afflicting the said loved one. i feel when it comes to mental illness, the patient is both the doctor and the patient. both the expert and the ignorant. people expect us to be educating them on our illnesses even though a lot of energy is already being used in fighting the disease. another reason why i dislike this mental awareness month is the overwhelming amount of information that is shared. some completely unverified. false information that feeds already prevailing stereotypes. suddenly everyone has an idea on how to live with a mental illness. suddenly personal stories and experiences are being shared on the media. it sickens me to the core. some stories are triggering that is one, but that does not bother me as much because i just switch the damn television off. but what irks me is how my inbox gets flooded at this time. you have to see this story. you have to listen to this story, it is so sad, i even cried. omg! i did not know that depresssion is this bad. like you are so strong! if this is what i would be going through, i would have killed myself already. remember i am here for you, just call me anytime. if by anytime you mean from May 1st to May 31st during the awareness month, i totally understand. (sarcasm) if you are going to show your care about my mental health in this month then go back to being invalidating and dismissive, i would rather you stay away. i, and many others, are not sick only in this month.
one, allow me to sound cold and heartless for a minute and say that i really do not care about all these “success” stories about people who have battled their mental illnesses and won. and are apparently doing okay now. or they do not have to take a couple of antipsychotic pills everyday. what am i to do with their stories? am i supposed to get inspired and feel like i too, can be a victor? am i supposed to feel better? or some sense of camaraderie with them? the truth is i feel nothing when i listen to these “success” stories. i am in the trenches. i am dirty with mud in the trenches. i am bleeding dry deep in the trenches. the people i have kinship feelings with are those i am in the trenches with, not a soldier who is at home and has served their time. i am speaking in metaphor as you can tell. i do not know what i can talk about with someone who had a depressive episode for a month many years ago and is now okay. not when everyday i think with morbid longing about my death. are you following me? in one of his books, C.S.Lewis says how difficult and probably impossible it is for a person who is not in pain, to talk about pain. if you are not in pain, can you fully describe a painful experience? will your narration be whole? not really. and that is just the point. i know of an acquaintance who had depression about two years ago. i wish i could say that she is supportive but she is not. i do not really know why she is dismissive about mental illnesses now that she is well. perhaps she has forgotten how it felt like. so i prefer keeping my distance when it comes to my mental health issues. those stories mean nothing to me. and here is my second reason why i do not listen to them anymore.( i used to).
people are more apt to listen and believe strangers than people close to them. i think it is sort of crazy. but it is a human thing. apparently. perhaps that is why it is said that a prophet is seldom accepted in his hometown. when you have a mental illness and your family and some close friends actually support you in your recovery journey, you have somehow hit the jackpot. i know of people whose families still do not believe their diagnosis. some do not even know the diagnosis. some parents who are still reluctant to let their children take antidepressants because they do not see how their friendly intelligent kids are depressed. some friends who still think that their friend is faking about being suicidal. yet this whole crowd of doubting Thomases are sympathetic when they watch the tearjerking narrations of suicidal people aired on the media. how is it that you can shed tears for strangers but still dismiss glaring signs of suicidal behaviour in your close friend or family member? i guess you will only believe it when you see it. i know it is hard to accept that someone you love has a mental illness. but remember it is just as hard if not harder for them. from my personal experience, i feel like a liability. like a burden. it is just as hard for us as it is for our families.
next reason: people think that these stories are like prescriptions. this is like the main reason i do not listen to these stories anymore. i must admit i have found a few ways on how to survive my own quicksand of thoughts. i have a few ways to survive in the dark inside my mind until morning comes. but whatever has worked for me will not necessarily work for someone else. you remember that acquiantance i mentioned earlier? well she said she went for prayers and got healed. no therapy. no meds. no admission to hospital. just prayers and she was healed. i am happy for her. really. because she is doing okay now. however, this does not mean that prayer is the one and only way though which people will get healed. i know prayerful people who are still sick. it is not about their faith being weak or whatever else religious lingo will say is the problem. it is okay if i am taking medicine for my mental illness. it is okay if i am going for therapy. it is okay if exercise makes me feel better. it is okay if i prefer journalling to exercise. the point is, if you have found a healthy way to help you fight the illness then that is good news that should be celebrated. i definitely celebrate you. and if you are still seeking ways to deal with what is going on, i am sending you gentleness and hope that you find what works for you. the problem is when someone sends me a story about some certain person who overcame depression using certain means and i happen to prefer other means, then it shows that i do not want to get healed. really? ” our stories are not prescriptions.” – J.S. Park.
“….because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness. it was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won.” Aza (John Green). people are obsessed with stories about victory over mental illnesses. i like victory stories too. but it is wrong to be so caught up in waiting for the end that we discard the middle. there is no ending without the beginning and this long tumultuous middle. i would like to believe for myself and for others out there that we will all have tender beautiful endings. and at the same time i give space for gentleness in the messy here and now. “illness is a story told in the past tense.” Aza( John Green). people are not happy when i come here and say i am not okay. right now. today has been a terrible day. i was suicidal in the morning, i had to have a friend talk me out of it. this is not pretty at all, is it? but what do you expect? i am not a motivational speaker. i am not here to raise your hopes by painting a false narrative that says yes, i am no longer sick. this is not it. this is about being gentle and patient. hopeful sometimes. angry. longing for death. fighting for life. this is a lot of things that cannot be condensed into a story for positive porn.
i suppose those stories help people out there and that is okay. after all, i too, am telling my own story. it is okay. as long as we do not make these “success” stories our prescriptions cast on stone. is my worth as a person tied up to the fact that i will get healed? does it mean that if i do not get well in the end, if i get worse in the end, that i have failed in life? i think not.