Well, yes and no.
Yes – It’s a life, lived by a real person, just like yours. I have a job (well two), I have a dog, I have friends and family. For the most part I function, sometimes very well and sometimes not at all. I’m not disabled or incapable, I just take the scenic route sometimes, but the world is more beautiful that way. Mental health often closes doors for people, but that doesn’t stop you opening a window and taking in the view!
No – Simply because mental health is complicated. It isn’t just one thing or a group of things in the moment. It’s different things, all the time, every moment. One minute can be one thing and the next it’s a million other things. If I had to pick 1 word to describe it I would say ‘Exhausting‘.
It’s draining, all the time – even on a good day, because there is always the fear of it creeping in and taking hold of me at any moment. It’s the need to put out the ‘happy’ face to the world. To be on my guard, have my walls up and be on high alert ALL THE TIME is a constant, exhausting battle with myself.
I think most people with a mental health problem would understand the infinite struggle with being tired, feeling drained and never seeming to get enough sleep, at least once along the journey.
I think that is part of the problem, and why many people think we can simply just ‘cheer up’ or that saying ‘it’s not that bad’ is actually useful. It isn’t. I am well aware that there are people in poorer situations, with bigger problems. I can, believe it or not, see the big picture. I have a chemical imbalance, my eyes work just fine, thank you.
If you are in a position where a person has opened up to you about their mental health, don’t make a silly off the cuff remark about it being a phase, or about how you felt sad once, or ‘oh so & so had this, that and the other’. Just, don’t be a dick, okay?
Lend an ear, give a hug, ask if there is anything that you can do to help.
Let them know that you are grateful they chose to open up to you and tell them that you love them no matter what, because usually that’s just about the best thing you can say.