When this period of depression initially kicked in and I posted on my Facebook page (that can only be seen by friends), that I felt bad/low, I encountered a fair amount of private messages making sarcastic, uneducated comments but thankfully I also received many positive, thoughtful comments and messages. Several months down the line now and if I put anything about how I’m feeling on Facebook, it is only a small handful of people who comment or message. This is fine – genuinely it is – I don’t need a response, whether everyone or no one comments is not why I post anything anymore. It is, as I’ve said before, my way of releasing some of the pressure and trying to silence the darkness a little.
A few months ago when the depression was at its worst, if no one commented I saw it as an insult, to me it meant that no one cared and was proof that the world didn’t need me in it. Of course that’s not the case, but demons don’t allow you to see past the empty comments box. So why has the number of people talking to me about my fight dropped so much? Is it because they don’t feel anything they say would be helpful? Is it because they’re fed up of reading negative posts and think I should be “better”? Is it because they don’t care? Personally I don’t think it’s the last, but these people are my friends, people I trust to be a part of my girls lives. People who, if they wrote they were feeling unwell in anyway, I would offer my support and friendship to without hesitation and for as long as it was needed. What it comes down to, I believe, is that talking about mental illness is socially unacceptable.
I go back to the broken leg I often wish I had (in theory), a physical problem that couldn’t be ignored and brushed under the carpet, a visible problem that would mean people would offer support and help without thinking about it, invites to friend’s houses for a cuppa or a night out would still come, there would be understanding if plans had to be changed, and no one would criticise if you said that you were struggling.
My pain might not be the same as a physical illness or injury, but it is still very real. Whereas someone with a physical illness is fighting “something”, an actual “thing”, I am fighting myself. Whilst dealing with a physical illness can be scary and life threatening, so can trying to live with a mental illness.
Someone with a physical illness can talk about it freely, there’s a willingness to offer support even if there’s no understanding. From experience I can say that talking about a mental illness can bring a lot of negativity. Mentioning suicide is met with a lot of aggression. It’s an emotive topic because everyone has an opinion, and sadly too many lives have been touched by suicide, but when someone is trying to express their feelings when they are at their most vulnerable, to be met with such hostility and judgement only encourages silence. My opinion is that there is nothing more dangerous than silence.
Mental illness is painful, it does cause suffering, and it has the potential to be life threatening. It is not something which heals quickly or that someone can “get over” in a set period of time. The longer it goes on, the deeper the depression sets in, the harder it is to keep going. If you know someone who is struggling with a mental illness and you see them post something online that says how they’re feeling, imagine how scared they must be feeling and how much it must have taken for them to share their most personal feelings. Even if you don’t know what to say, if you feel uncomfortable, if you don’t understand, don’t scroll on past without commenting. It is terrifying and very isolating having to fight your own mind, sometimes just knowing someone is on the other side of the computer screen is all it takes to help you take another breath.
I’ve set up a Facebook group for those who want to follow this blog, or who might want somewhere to talk (you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want, there’s no pressure at all). Please join if you would like to.