I’m sure you’ve read lots of stuff this week about mental illness but I sat down at my computer today and this was the only thing I wanted to talk about. The death of Robin Williams hit me right in the gut. He was a beautiful human being who dedicated his life to finding the funny. He was a good father and husband. He loved his job and used his position to better the lives of those in need. And now he’s gone.
I was diagnosed with depression and ADHD a little over three years ago. I have lived in my pajamas for days and days. I have barricaded myself in my house and fed my babies macaroni and cheese for every meal. I have gone days without sleep and then had to pinch myself to stay awake while I drove to work with my children in the car. I have cried hysterically because of the massive amounts of laundry piled on my floor. Because my mind was spinning, spinning, spinning. Because I felt like a failure. Because I was neglecting my kids. Because my marriage was falling apart. Because I couldn’t get my shit together. And there was nothing I could do to stop it.
The hardest part about mental illness is that there is no physical indicator that someone is sick. It’s not like a heart attack or cancer. No one disputes a broken arm. I was really good at faking happy. And I quote: “But you’re always so happy! You have nothing to be depressed about! Your life is perfect! You’re always cracking jokes and smiling!” Of course I was. I didn’t want anyone to know I’m a basket case. There’s a huge stigma in our society when it comes to mental illness. Manic. Depressed. Bipolar. Obsessive. Schizo. Weak. Impulsive. Crazy. Psycho. Emotional. Lazy. Slacker. Unreliable. Why would anyone choose to live like this? It’s not being ungrateful, or selfish, or ridiculous. It’s biological. And it’s unavoidable.
Luckily, I got help before the situation got any worse. I mixed therapy with drugs and was able to function. Sometimes, better than function! I often get to the point where I feel like I’m fixed and I don’t need the pills. I hate the pills. The side effects suck. I’ve gone off them three times in the last three years. Just today, I thought “I don’t really need this anymore.” But then I always I do. There are only so many self-help books I can read, so many affirmations I can make, so many miles I can run. Some days, it catches up with me. Those days, I’m really grateful I have health insurance and can get my meds and see my doctor for the low, low price of my copay. Those days, I say eff-you to the stigma and tell everyone that I’m feeling down and I need help. I’m one of the lucky ones. So many can’t get help or don’t want to admit they need help. I didn’t want to admit it. I fought it for a long time. When you’re in it, it’s really hard to see a way out.
I’ve seen a lot of articles about mental illness this week, probably the most I’ve seen in the media ever. I don’t know the stats but I know lots of people on this planet deal with mental illness. I know many people hurt themselves or others because they are biologically not in their right mind. There’s a lot of us head cases out there! And yet, the media doesn’t take notice until the disease claims an influential, radiant, profound life.
But I have hope.
I have hope that we won’t waste this opportunity to shed some of the social stigma that plagues mental illness.
I have hope that the conversations will continue and that brain research will be a priority.
I have hope that less people will suffer from mental illness and get the tools to live with it instead.
I have hope.