So I recently read this where she describes a struggle many people face one way or another. Your brain kinda sorta decided it’s time for you to fret over whether or not drinking coffee right now will mean the end of the world as we know it or you personal early death in gruesome pain. Or it decided you should stay in bed all day in constant pain or completely devoid of energy or whatever have you for no reason other than your brain said so. Or you are hearing those voices again. It’s scary and humans are kinda help- and clueless what to do about it. Some drugs help encounter some effects of mental disorders but by and large it’s a really really hard uphill struggle each and every day.
So why can’t we talk about it? That is the question my fellow blogger asked and I’d like to give my own idea of an answer. Why is “it’s all in your head” a perfectly socially accepted response to any and all kinds of mental problems? Does it being all in your head make it any less real? Shit no! Ask anyone who recently had a nightmare, who is grieving a loved one one way or another, the pain, the fear, the complete and utter intensity is very very VERY real. So what is up with that cute little piece of violent minimisation and gaslighting being thrown at us whenever we voice some sort of grief? Why is showing emotions such a forbidden fruit in so many cultures? Yes no one should be a crybaby, but let’s face it grown up people crying in public or even around friends is really a rare sight. It’s not about not being a crybaby anymore rather it’s about not showing the struggles you go through at all as far as my own experience tells me. And the accusations are always a variation on the theme of do not show what you are feeling or you actually do not feel what you claim you feel. Again minimisation and gaslighting.
It’s true we should not throw our emotional state randomly at everyone to deal with, grieving and pain should be something to be done in selected company, but I have already been openly accused by random strangers on the street for looking like I’m in a bad mood. And this is where the line is firmly crossed. The people who make a very intense show out of their pain normally have a messed up head as well (narcissists out for their supply come to mind). The line is also firmly crossed when seemingly 90% of the population think it’s alright to further hurt the one who needs support because no one knows how to deal with this.
The most empathic response I’m getting when I am talking about my struggles with depression, anxiety, sensory issues stemming from my hypersensitivity an other firmly non visible issues is some idea of “Do this, it helps me so you will be right as rain once you do as I do.” And then you explain that drinking a cup of warm milk will not make you fall asleep 9 hours earlier than you normally do and how you already tried this herb or this workout or this pill or whatever it is and it did not work. It’s not like anyone dealing with these things does so only since yesterday. The idea that some issues are profound enough to be beyond run of the mill quick fixes for everyday problems seems to be beyond most people. There are no shades of grey and you can not possibly be as bad as you claim. You are either called a liar or you are simply not trying hard enough. You are the one who does it all wrong, it’s all on you and if only you wanted you could just snap your finger and you’d be very free from anything that you imagine is wrong with you.
I get it. People want to help. They really do not want someone to be in pain so they suggest whatever they sincerely feel is right and that’s that. This is what you do, this is how it works. People who have never experienced what a powerful organ resides within our skulls have no idea what a transmitter party in the limbic system does to people. I do not expect anyone to suddenly become all knowing about a pain they are lucky enough to not know. (This is where Theory of Mind fails again by the way.) I only would love for people to accept that yes, things can go that bad. And there may be nothing else to do than just accept that pain and not leave people alone with it. And they can’t.
I think the reason why we do not talk about mental issues is a very deep rooted fear. If your heart fails you die, if your lungs stop breathing you may need artificial help there and loose a part of your dignity and independence which is a high prize to pay but you are still you. A well placed hit on your head and you may suddenly develop strange hobbies or become unpredictably violent or loose your memories or any other version of loosing a part of who you are or develop into something that is really not who you used to be. The idea that something in us can break so badly that it breaks our personality, that these changes actually have an equivalent in neurons and synapses which can change everything about you is truly scary. Something potentially worse than death. Living as someone entirely else, different morals, different hobbies, different set of problem solving skills, different IQ, the looks are still the same but you switched bodies with someone else. Your daddy is not in here anymore… People do not want to acknowledge this vulnerability. Take two of my limbs and half of my lung but take me being a parent, a lover, a child, take my personality and I’d rather you just end it altogether.
This is why so many mentally ill people are suicidal. We are not who we want to be. We fight this very bloody fight for our own core each day. And like any war it’s brutal beyond the human capacity to deal with and comes with many casualties and no real winner. We want to be seen as someone who does their damnest to be the person we are. And we are ignored because no one want to realise it could be them fighting the same fight. This ignorance about our own core vulnerabilities leads to those of us being the most vulnerable being ostracised. It’s still the cripple who gets locked away where people can not see it. It’s not fashionable to do this with physical disabilities anymore but I dare you to walk outside in your local centre of the village or town and look how much of the sick you see around. There is a subtle gag on disabled people. This vulnerability, you may fall and people may just laugh and no one will help you. Would you want to go out and shop gorceries yourself like that?
Witnessing the struggle of the sick is unbearable. And this isolation adds to the pain of everyone who does not dare to walk outside. We know what awaits us and with mental issues we have a battlefield within ourselves to deal with, asking us to shoulder everyone elses issues by pretending we are alright is an assassination attempt on our core self. Yes people, it IS that bad. Also being the one who falls and does not get helped up again but laughed at makes people depressed. It’s that simple. The mental issues come to the sick because of the isolation we face. This is what happens if you tell your depressed family member to perk up.
You may not always see an amputated leg or carcinerous lumps but still people may be very sick and need help. And if it is not available yet, because our research isn’t advanced enough it’s already helpful if you just accept the idea that yes, this fight in our own head is real enough to be lost by some and they sadly end their lives over this. Especially during holidays where everyone else is caught up in buying present and getting the feast ready. Try being alone during a family holiday once. Do not send gifts and cards and tell everyone you couldn’t manage. Do not call anyone and talk yourself into the idea that they do not want contact with you so you are to scared to pick up the phone (because all they will do is hurt you further by attempting to help) and sit there with your warmed up leftovers. Happy holidays. That would be a step in our shoes. This is our reality, each day, every day.
If the issue a person is dealing with is “only” a mental one that means you can do something. You can help! You can see them for what they are. Listen to what they have to say and believe them. Carry a little bit of the pain, the fear, the loneliness, the darkness and by that making them feel as if they are not alone anymore. This is why we have pets. They know they can not fix any of our problems, but when their human is sad they show up regular as clockwork and they offer us their ears and their presence as a way to tell us they see our pain (in fact I think they can smell it) and that’s all they can do. So next time someone talks to you about it and you know they are already in therapy or looking for one and they already do all your little tips then just be a pet. Be there. Look at them in a compassionate way rather than away for your own insecurities. This is how you are a friend. You do not need to understand what is going on. Just accept that this is the reality for the person you are talking to.
The reason why only a limited number of people does this is because this makes people face the well buried and neatly isolated fear or just how much power a few little molecules and synapses hold over us. They have their own battles they do not wish to fight. To a person locked in a death match this looks like the true weakness. Cowardice, deserting your home country. And we do not even intend to prosecute anyone over this. We are far to caught up in ourselves. But this is how it looks from the inside. I’m just not someone who honeycoats and sugarwraps everything in rainbow colours. It’s very hard to have compassion for people unwilling to be real with themselves if you get none in return and instead get asked to be so unreal with yourself that you actually do not have the right to exist as a person anymore. Once in a while I like to just throw a part of what I’m dealt back in peoples faces.
It’s petty maybe. But I’m not accusing anyone personally. Maybe giving people a look from the inside out will help some understand what is going on. Because I get the sense that some people genuinely want to help and do not know how. I wish schools had a subject that taught people emotional intelligent tools how to cope with situations. Because this hapless and sometimes self righteous ignorance seems the biggest illness of them all. And somehow no one gets called out on that. Yes it’s all in our heads, thanks captain obvious! Are you telling people in a wheelchair they have a problem with their legs?
There is a very limited amount of things willpower alone can do. And personally I found aggressively ignoring people who are so self involved and unempathetic is a much more effective way to employ my willpower than attempting to will myself healthy however that is supposed to work. I wish I had the power to call some people out on their shit but alas I have a fight to at least not loose already. I will save the world from emotional havoc wreckers once I’m healthy while hoping the ones who are healthy and not as devoid of empathy will start rallying against people laughing at us to our face as they throw us to the ground and jump on our beaten bodies celebrating how they proved their method of dealing with issues is the right one.