I’ve lived with depression and anxiety for over 20 years. Throughout this time, people have felt it necessary to put their two cents in regarding my mental illness. They’ve said unhelpful things to me that people who have never experienced mental illness might say. Here are a few things people have said to me and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard them.
1. “But you have so much good in your life.”
What those who don’t have a mental illness may not understand is what I have in my life makes no difference to my mind. Yes, I have a pretty good life. I have a wonderful husband, a wild and amazing son, an awesome dog, great friends and a wonderful family. My depression and anxiety don’t give a shit about all that. What others don’t get is that my mental illness is due to a mixture of biological and environmental factors. Sure, bad times in my personal life can trigger episodes, but sometimes there is no reason for an episode. I’ve been known to be happy despite things not going my way and I can be anxious and depressed when everything is “right.”
2. “Others have this problem, too.”
And? Because others are dealing with mental illness too, I should let it go? I don’t get what is implied in this statement. Everyone has their story. And while it is comforting to know I am not the only one who is going through this, I’m still going through this. It sucks for all of us.
3. “Can’t you just snap out of it?”
Can’t you just snap out of it? Can’t you just…? Can’t I just what? I would love to be able to just get rid of these shenanigans, but I can’t. Trust me when I tell you I’ve tried. It isn’t that simple. I take medication, do yoga, exercise regularly and eat well. For me, none of that matters when I’m experiencing an mental illness related episode. So, to answer your questions: no, I can’t just.
4. “Be happy.”
This is my favorite one. Be happy. Oh, OK. I didn’t realize it was that easy. I’ve been trying to be happy for the past 20 plus years. So simple, yet so hard. I can’t just be happy. I want to be happy. Heck, I’d love to be happy all the time. But I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, I am a happy person, but I go through unhappy and hard times. For example, these past few weeks have been particularly hard on me with my anxiety spiking and me depression really sinking in. Yes, outside factors I have no control over are contributing to my feelings this time. I’m working hard on myself to snap out of it, but it’s not as easy as “be happy.”
5. “Don’t think about it.”
Are you kidding? That’s all I can think about when I’m going through an episode. I can’t not think about it. My mental illness is peddling its way around my mind like I’m stuck in a hamster’s wheel. It’s nonstop. Despite being able to completely function in my everyday life while going through an episode, it’s still present. So while I may seem just fine, I’m actually not. And while I may seem like I’ve got my shit together, I’m actually freaking out in my head. So no, I can’t not think about it. I don’t get a choice.
I’m not angry about the above “advice” given to me. I know people are trying to help. I kindly nod my head and say thank you. Many can’t understand it, so I can’t blame them. For some people, depression is just sadness and anxiety is just being tense.
It’s been a long battle, but so far, I’ve prevailed. While I do not have the power to will it away, I do have the power to make it easier on myself and my family. My pouch is full of strategies.
I, like so many others going through this battle, am a survivor.
Post Originally Published on The Mighty