…you don’t notice it’s there, until you’re falling.
That’s the experience of mental illness – in a nutshell: You’re either flying, or falling. It’s hard to stay in one place, difficult to nail down exactly what’s wrong because it’s such a core thing. So much the experience of the world, rather than the experience of one symptom or other.
My illness may be invisible, but that doesn’t mean I have to be. Let me repeat that. Give you time to catch up:
Your illness may be invisible, but you don’t have to be.
If not invisible, what then? Then it’s about more than being sick or well, bad or good. It’s that holistic thing people go on about but tend not to bother to explain: You can get help, find support, cope with your diagnosis.
What’s wrong with me?
Oh I had labels, PTSD, major depression, anxiety disorder. But they didn’t mean much to me.
It’s a token gesture, something to medicate if that floats your boat but not much more. Not much to hang onto when you’ve already lost your balance, once or twice.
How are you?
I hate that question. Truth is, you’re the only one who really knows; I didn’t feel OK, even when I looked just fine and dandy. But just because my mental illness is invisible, doesn’t mean mental health has to be.
Getting better can’t be done in the dark, can’t be done alone and without revealing certain parts of yourself that maybe you’d prefer not to expose. I wasn’t exactly big on revelations. It wasn’t dramatic. One day, I just, started to tell someone what was on my mind.
What was holding me back? Seemed like a good question.
Because even if you can’t see it, it’s there. In the background. Mental health. Like gravity, pinning you to the ground.
What is mental illness?
For most people, it’s just another name for fear; The way a lot of people grow up and they’re still afraid of the dark. It’s that unfamiliar, and not knowing is often the worst thing we can imagine. All kinds of things are dreamt up by minds with nothing better to do than fill in the gaps with their own worst whatever.
Until you’ve experienced mental illness, you can’t know what it’s like.
So I hope that if you’re reading this as a friend or family member of someone struggling to heal from anxiety and depression, then what you’ll take away is this idea: That just because you’ve never fallen, doesn’t mean it’s easy to get up.