the old familiar sting

“I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take”

There are things I cannot just let go of. Things that demand a response, things that cannot be left alone. I feel that I have to write this post if anything for the reason that it might change one mind, one person. I can only work within my capacity of the audience I have. I don’t really like having to write this post because I thought I would never have to write it. I have come to realize that I am naive in my perception of how people today, people that have grown up in an environment of treating mental illness not as a stigma but as something no different than someone having cancer, or another disease. I was wrong. My eyes were recently opened to the reality that I thought didn’t exist any longer. I guess that was my wishful thinking, that things have changed. I was wrong.

I was having a conversation recently with a really good friend of mine, someone I have a lot of respect for, someone who is very intelligent and who exudes a lot of the qualities that people respect. I think you get the idea. During the conversation he brought up a mutual friend who suffers from depression (is that right? suffers from, or should it be has?). We haven’t seen this person in a while because of the depression. I get it. I kind of understand what this person is going through. My friend didn’t get it though. He commented that, I’m paraphrasing ‘he needs to get off his ass and start just doing stuff’. The notion was for him to get off his ass and that would take care of the depression. Just carry on as normal and everything will be alright, right?

I didn’t know what to say. My idea of what this person’s view on mental illness was totally wrong! And if I’m wrong on what he thought am I wrong with the majority of people his age and worst yet, is this the prevailing view, still? WTF!

I understand the older generations. They grew up in a society that mentally ill people were locked up and not talked about and times were tough and you had to pick yourself up by the bootstraps. I get that. Most of those people aren’t going to change. But for younger people, people that have grown up in an environment of messages saying that mental health is a real issue that we need to take seriously and it is NOT someone being weak. That I have a hard time dealing with. I thought we as a society were progressive, not regressive.

Why do we still look at mental illness be it a chemical imbalance or for some other reason as a sign of weakness? Why? Why does someone want to stay in bed all day? Why wouldn’t someone want to go out and experience the joys of life? Socialize, do things? Why wouldn’t they? Would you go up to someone who has cancer and tell them just to buck up? ‘Suck it up and stop shaking’ to the person who has Parkinsons? Or ‘you need to take control of that whole eating thing’ to someone who is diabetic?

No.

We don’t.

So why is it we tell someone suffering from depression to just suck it up. Get out of bed. Why don’t you want to leave the house. Stop being lazy. Just get over it. Stop whining and being a baby.

I don’t know. I don’t get it. Maybe mental illness scares people. Sometimes things we don’t understand can be scary. If we don’t see a wound, a bandage, a cast on an arm, it’s hard for us to understand. I think too we don’t understand the healing process or if there even is one. We see a broken arm we know that after 6 weeks the person will be out of that cast and the bone is better. With the mind there is still that great unknown, when will the cast come off?

I do know that we need to treat people who have mental illness respectfully and try to understand that it is an illness and needs to be treated a such. Don’t treat them with disdain. That doesn’t help, it only drives them deeper into the darkness knowing they are not understood.

I’m going to try to change things. I’m going to try to open up dialogues with people. I’m going to try to help people understand that we need to support people and not turn our backs on them. Supporting them is better than dismissing them. Let’s build them up instead of tearing them down.

I haven’t talked to my friend about this after he made the comment. I’m going to though. It might help me understand the perception, his and others. And maybe I can make a difference. Talking about mental illness is better than not talking about it. The more we can talk about it the more it becomes easier to talk about and hopefully less uncomfortable for people to talk about.

We need to be more supportive and less dismissive of people suffering from mental illness. I think, only until that happens will people be more readily to tell you they have depression, suffer from anxiety, have Aspergers or something else. It will be no different that telling you they are diabetic.

It just might happen.

Yours in health,

Darryl