Most of the time, we’re viewing our world through a filter, however that might look.
Reality might deter drastically from that filter. We choose to see what we want and expect. We know suffering is inevitable in life, but even then, it’s easy to acknowledge that and just keep moving along.
But perhaps there’s even more beneath the surface of what isn’t innately suffering. Pass by any pleasant person on the street, exchange a kind greeting or a smile, and that’s that. If we don’t immediately see something concerning, we’ll just continue about our day and not think otherwise.
We all have or currently are in a time of struggle and challenge. Chances are, that won’t be made blatantly obvious to many. Anyone out of the loop automatically assumes all is fine, but is it really?
We don’t like to appear weak, helpless. We avoid vulnerability because it doesn’t coincide with the productivity and “success” we seek. So we fasten the masks on our faces and go about our days as if life is stable and nonchalant.
This is Mental Health Awareness Week. Whether we have seen or felt mental illness directly or not, we all have mental health. But thanks to stigma, how we discuss and address mental health falls in the cracks. It doesn’t fit into our societal standards of constant progress, so we often must disguise and beautify mental illness into some trend, as if then we’ll actually care.
How ironic it is that during this week, I’m personally in a time of major depression. My illness is chronic and comes in phases, alternating between better spans of time and downward spirals. With treatment, the goal is to minimize the frequency and length of these lower moods, but you cannot completely prevent them, especially depending on your current circumstances.
Let me tell you, the last thing I want to do is pretend my depression is just some brooding persona to match cooler weather. It deserves no bedazzling or embellishment. It’s not a choice consciously made to seem cool and trendy.
Too often I have adorned myself with a mask to get through every day with mental illness. I push aside my reality into the deep recesses of my mind until it becomes unbearable, unavoidable. A ton of bricks smacking you all at once.
But I refuse to play that game any longer. In today’s case, I fully acknowledge my mental state and the mood I’m in. With that awareness, I can know what is manageable in the day and push myself where I can. In areas and times that I know I simply need to rest and accept what my mind needs, I have days when I might hopefully brush my hair and accomplish at least one thing, even if that’s a basic function like showering or putting food in the microwave.
Mental illness isn’t pretty. It’s dissociating and having the urge to cry in public for no reason. It’s aching in your body and head when you’ve barely managed to get out of bed. It’s not just feeling numb, but having no motivation to feel anything else. It’s staring up at your ceiling before going to bed super early because you’re done with that day but still have racing existential questions spinning in your mind. It’s every little task turned into the greatest challenge you’ve ever faced.
That’s just major depression. Let’s not forget anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia, everything that constitutes support and awareness. We often only talk about mental illness if we’re retweeting some “relatable” post, or making an ironic joke about how “depressing” something is, or chuckling about being so “OCD” about organizing your agenda.
True awareness is researching and learning. It’s standing in solidarity with those directly affected, and using your voice to speak the truth. We can share a Buzzfeed video on our Facebook timelines about mental health all we want, but awareness also implies action, proactively advocating for transparent, widespread treatment options and universal acceptance.
I don’t suggest everyone becoming as vulnerable online as I have about my struggles. Express yourself in whatever way you feel most comfortable, even if that’s just opening up to close loved ones. A million shouting voices evokes clutter, but a few strong messages that lead to proactive change are what will make a sustainable difference.
I fight for recognition. I fight for a healthcare system that equally serves all aspects of my well-being. I fight for those who have lost their own battles and those in the midst of mental warfare. And I fight because it’s simply the the right thing to do. When 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness in a given year, we can no longer put up a filter and pretend it’s not there.
Beyond this week, realize that it’s okay to not be okay. Support those who you know may be struggling. Please seek help when you need it. Reach out to your loved ones. Take each day at a time. Be gentle with yourself. You are not alone. You are a warrior. You will win this battle.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie