This post is was meant to be written on World Mental Health Day, the 10th of October, or four days ago now. It’s a post that’s been somewhat recursively delayed. I want to write about mental health, but I find it hard to write because I’m too anxious, which makes me feel like I shouldn’t be writing, which makes me more anxious…
Because I am not a Mental Health Blogger, but I am a mentally ill blogger. I suffer from simultaneous major depression and generalised anxiety disorder. I can’t remember a period in my life before anxiety, before fatigue and isolation and perfectionism and all the other fun side-effects of these disorders – and that’s before I even think about the medications.
In the past I’ve thought about writing a journal of my life in (and out of) mental health, but on more thorough reflection I abandoned that idea for one main reason: being mentally ill is really boring. I get up, I wish I hadn’t; I eat meals, I wish I didn’t have to; I start projects and abandon them halfway through; I leave the house only when I have to; I sabotage my own life over and over and I sit here and watch it happen – and I’m one of the lucky ones.
At least I have access to a psychiatrist, and to the medications that keep me somewhat functional. I have a brilliant counsellor, who’s been obstinately trying to convince me that I’m not the dire failure I feel, for the past three years now. I have a partner of four years, who hasn’t yet reached the point of throwing up his hands and heading for Australia. I don’t have a very wide social circle any more, but the friends I do have are amazing people without whom I couldn’t have gotten this far. I have a family who, although they may not understand everything I go through, have always tried to help me out, and educators who have been incredibly supportive. Lastly, of course, I have the internet, which is everything from the deepest of educational resources to a 3am therapist to a supportive international web of friendships.
I’m getting through this. I don’t feel like I’m getting better, yet, but I’m getting through. Thousands don’t.
According to Aware, over 400,000 people in Ireland experience depression at any one time. There are roughly four hundred deaths from suicide every year (in a country of less than five million people). 11000 visits to Irish emergency departments each year are caused by self-harm. This country is too small to see numbers that large.
If you suffer from mental illness, please know: there is someone out there who will take you seriously. There are people who will listen. Even if it is – as it was for me – only names and words on a blogging site, you are not the only person who has experienced pain like yours. You are not the only one who is down this hole. There are hundreds of us, and we’re all fumbling around in the dark without a map. Every so often someone will happen on a rope ladder and work their way out, and the rest of us are left to wonder however they managed it, to bitch a bit, and then to get back to the business of living.
And my next step is not backing out of making this post.
(PS: Mental Health Ireland has a campaign called Building Resilience for this week, which has tips from ‘have the courage to be imperfect’ (helpful) to ‘laugh out loud every day’ (teeth-grittedly aspirational at best). Worth a look.)