There are a few different reactions to expect when you tell someone about your mental illness, most of them I personally could live without. I have put these in order of what I feel is the most common reactions I face.
- Apathetic – I put this to the top of the list, as I find this to be the most common response. Most people I speak to, have no real comprehension. They presume my stories to be just that, ‘stories’, fiction, exaggerated, me being a hypochondriac, looking for attention etc. These people usually like to constantly compare what you’re going through, to their situations, to how they deal with them, or how they believe you should be dealing with them. They also find a way to make your issues appear menial, and yes to them they might be, but to us? Far from.
- Patronising – Usually coupled in with the same people above; They will like to talk to you as if you have no real understanding of what is happening to you, often trying to educate you on mental health, and the things you need to do to feel better i.e. “Well, have you ever thought about going to the doctor?”, “Maybe walking or something will make you feel better?”, “Just don’t think about it!”, “Just stop doing it, you know you’re your own worst enemy”, are just a few examples of actual things I’ve heard this past week alone.
- Empathetic – Now whilst a lot of my readers don’t have a mental illness themselves, they tell me they have family and friends who do, and that my blog helps. I’m told that they understand what I’m going through, as they witness it in those close to them. Then there are those of you who are like me, and message to say, “I could have written that myself”. It is these messages that make my blog feel worthwhile.
- Debater – Some people like to message/comment to debate with me, regarding my own thoughts and feelings. Say what now? Yup, you read right. You cannot tell someone they are not feeling how they’re feeling, or that their thoughts/opinions on a topic regarding their own mental health is wrong. Everyone’s experience with depression and anxiety is not going to be the exact same, and neither will the road to feeling better. What works for one, will not necessarily work for all. This does not make my views wrong, it makes them different.
- Exasperated – Most people close to me are just sick of it all now. You can see it in their face, or hear it in their voice; they just want it to be over now. They’re bored hearing the same stuff from me all the time. I find I say the same things a lot, it’s like being on a really shitty merry-go-round. Just when I think I’m getting over something, it comes right back around. It is no more exasperating for you, than it is me. Believe me!
Doing this blog has allowed me to write about things, I don’t feel I can approach those closest to me with. That is not to say I don’t try, I do, it’s just they don’t understand. Some of them try to understand, but all they end up doing is imparting their wisdom of how to make it all go away and missing the point entirely. I’m not telling you what is wrong with me, so you can play doctor and make it all better. I’m telling you because I need to vent aloud. I need to get what’s in my head out into the ether and try to make sense of it all. Most of the time I’m not looking for any feedback, I’m just looking for a nod, or a friendly smile to assure me that I’m not totally crazy. Unless you have an anxiety disorder, how could you possibly know what it’s like to live inside my head? You can’t know, and I don’t expect you to.
Recently I’ve divulged a helluva lot about myself. Some of my most personal memories, thoughts and struggles. I have done this for two reasons; The first reason is to vent, and the second reason, was that I hoped others would identify with me and I wouldn’t feel alone. I’m happy to say, I’ve had a great response to my blog. A lot of you who read this, message me to say you do in fact identify, or that you empathise with my situation. These messages really do help me to see that I’m not alone, and that people to get what it is that I’m trying to say, or know what I’m struggling with.
Now, this whole blog could be seen as attention seeking, and I guess in a way it is, but not in the way it can be implied. I do not put statuses on social media prompting PM’s of sympathy. I don’t want, need, nor care for anyone’s sympathy. Ever. Don’t ever pity me or feel bad for me. A lot of people I know have no idea that I write this blog, or that I have a mental illness at all. I’ve only ever told those immediately close to me, and at that, I don’t tell them everything. Having this blog has allowed me to feel that I can divulge, without feeling too exposed. Every one of these I write makes me apprehensive, as I don’t know how it will be received, but if/when I receive a message from someone who gets it, or gets me, that makes me feel better. I think I speak for most people who suffer with a mental illness when I say; It’s the knowing you’re not alone that gets you through. You would never wish how you feel on anyone, but, it brings comfort to know you’re not in it alone.
As someone who suffers with G.A.D and on/off depression, I don’t want your pity, I just want an ear to bend occasionally. Sometimes just getting out what I’m thinking takes away a lot of the stress I’m causing myself. What I definitely don’t need is your curt comments, or essentially being told to ‘woman up’.
I recently wrote a ‘bare all’ blog about my past relationship. This was a very difficult blog to write, it took me days of debating about it, then I started it a few times, just to delete it, until I finally committed to 6hrs worth of writing. A lot of the blog was removed, and I left only the poignant parts. The response I got from this was overwhelming, and I would just like to say thank you to those of you who took the time to message me. It honestly meant a lot. I carry a lot of baggage from that relationship, and it does hinder me. I wrote that blog thinking if I vented, it would help, and I guess it did a little. My husband read it, and felt it was a good piece. He already knew all of it, especially the early years stuff as he was there, so none of this was a shock to him. I like that he gets it, that he knows what I’ve been through, as I feel it helps him to understand how I am. Although, I know he gets more than a little exasperated with me at times.
When in Tesco the other night, I bumped into my ex partner’s brother. I was being told how my ex will be coming back home soon, how he’ll want to see me blah blah blah. Needless to say, this sent my anxiety into overdrive. My vision went blurry, my throat felt like it was closing up. My youngest actually took my hand and said “Mum you’re starting to panic, remember to breath, you’ll be ok”. He’s 9! I abandoned the rest of my shopping, and got back to the car. I felt fit to burst with emotion, as I was now scared, panicking, but had my son in the back of the car who was now really worried about me, and then I had to think about driving. I just took a moment to breath, and got home sharp. I needed to speak to someone, I needed to calm down, so I phoned a family member. Guess what the response was? An exasperated, patronising, apathetic one! I don’t even know why I let it upset me, or why I got angry with the response, as it’s always the same. They will compare what I went through, to what they have, and essentially tell me I need to get over it. I was then told that the threats I’ve received over the years, and what I worry about is just nonsense, but then in the same breath, was told that if it was going to happen, there was, and I quote, “no point worrying about the inevitable”. I mean really? Does this person know me at all? All I do is worry, and they think telling me not to is some form of magic wand?
I have worried and stressed myself out of late to the point of a massive breakout on my face, I’m not sleeping, my moods are erratic and I’m very emotional. I have then made the mistake of talking to the wrong people about how I’m feeling, and that has just made me feel worse. For those of you that know me; I do not need you to tell me to woman up, or that my over thinking is the root cause to how I am, or that I need to just get over things. I’m not a stupid woman. I know what is wrong, I also know what would fix it, but if it was that simple, and I could just get over it, I wouldn’t have G.A.D. An actual mental illness that causes anxieties for just about anything, as well as obsessive/compulsive thinking/habits. For just once, can you please just listen, without judgement, without a Dr. Phil response and without sounding like you’re bored? I don’t need to feel like I’m a burden, and you know what? see if I am, then please just tell me that my issues are not something you wish to talk about. I’d sooner just not talk to you at all, than leave the conversation feeling worse than when It started.
For the most part, people I have in my life are great. I’m very lucky to have the friends and support I do. Unfortunately, it’s the select few, the ones who I feel should be the most understanding and want to be there, that are not. All I can say is this; I hope that they never find themselves like me, having conversations telling them it’s all in their head and they need to get over it. Thankfully though, they’d have me for support, so they would actually be quite lucky.
If you’re friends with someone, or a family member to someone, suffering from anxiety/depression, I hope you are not guilty of the examples above. They don’t need you to have an answer to everything, and they don’t want you to fix them. Just listen. That’s it. Just listen and be there. Even if you’ve heard the story, or been in the same situation for the one hundredth time, and you’re getting bored of it, take a moment to think how it is for them. And yes, they probably should break the cycle, but do you think telling them in a matter of fact way will help? No. Most definitely not. If you see an unhealthy cycle happening, help them break it, don’t just tell them to. If they could do it themselves, trust me, they would have. We don’t choose to be this way, contrary to what some narrow-minded people think. We don’t sit at home and think, “oooh, I’ve not been anxious for a while, let’s give it a bash today”.
To those of you like me, dealing with reactions as mentioned, you’re not alone. Try not to let them upset you or make you feel worse. Even if you feel like no-one else in the world gets it, you know what? I do! I may just be one person, but it definitely means you’re not alone.