Internet trolls will always look for an excuse to make unnecessary and hurtful comments but since speaking out about my depression, I have received quite a few upsetting messages from people I have known for years, and it is those which are the hardest to ignore. Trolls are nobodies hiding behind a computer screen; these are people I considered to be friends.
Having had a chat with a few people in my Facebook group and privately, I realise I’m far from being alone in coming up against such a massive lack of understanding, and whilst thinking about what we’ve discussed is hard, I also think it’s important to share what has been said. I’ve taken five comments from a long list to try and illustrate what I am trying to explain. Speaking out about a personal battle with any mental illness isn’t just about fighting your demons, or the stigma from strangers, it’s about having to deal with people you share your life with who think it’s ok to say things like –
“Appreciate what you have and get on with it / what have you got to be depressed about”
“Take a pill and get on with it”
“Smile, you’ll soon feel better”
“Don’t talk about it if it’s going to upset you”
“If you stopped moaning about it maybe you’d have more friends”
Alongside all of these are of course the cliché “lazy”, “rude”, “snap out of it”, “selfish“ and so on. It is difficult to explain how it feels living with a mental illness, but it is impossible to even try and get through to someone who seems to think that living this hell is a choice. Why can’t they see that I – we – would give anything to be free of this ever present shadow that drains the life out of us?
The other week I received a text from someone I thought of as a close friend who suggested that I stop talking about the way I feel and “just” kill myself. I didn’t ask for demons to keep me company every second of the day, I never ever ask for, expect, or want, sympathy or attention, I simply try to stay alive and raise awareness. Why is it ok to encourage me to end my life???????
When the darkness is suffocating, it doesn’t matter how many kind things are said, it’s the negative comments that pierce the cloud and remain with me, playing over and over in my head. I walk a very thin tightrope and daily try my best to not fall off into a place I will never come back from. In comparison with the truly amazing group of true friends I have, the small minority of people who say such destructive things really are insignificant, but the fact is that their words embed in my brain and they have no idea how dangerous that is. In the deepest darkest hole, their thoughtless words can cause huge distress and potentially life threatening problems.
I don’t want anyone reading this to be put off speaking up about their own experiences of mental illness, it’s important to remember that there are so many people out there who want to talk and offer support. You will come across the most amazing strangers who become firm friends, and be surprised by those who you thought you knew everything about who will end a chat about your feelings with “me too”. Although it’s sad to see friendships ended over what basically comes down to ignorance about mental health illnesses, perhaps anyone who is unable to see someone in distress and reach out a hand of comfort were never really friends anyway.
My demons allow very few supportive words through, but every now and then someone will send me something which fires a brief ray of light through the dark and if only for a fleeting moment allows me to see that I am not alone. I don’t want for this post to be all about negative comments, so I’m going to finish with one of those messages which was like a little firefly in my storm.
Someone I don’t know really well -but who I’d like to think is a friend – has occasionally spoken with me when I’m having tough days. Despite their hectic life they always find time to reply and in my crazy world where trust doesn’t come easily, they’ve definitely shown me that they’re one of the good guys. Recently they sent me a message talking about how depression makes you think the world is against you, and you’re incapable of achieving anything (very true), ending with “The cloud is a d**k”.
I couldn’t agree more, and proof that some people not only understand, but can even make you smile when you think you’ll never be able to again.
My thanks to those who spent time sharing their experiences with me for this post.
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