While mental illness takes many shapes and forms, and some do become dangerous to themselves or others, the majority of us struggling with mental health are the people sitting opposite you in class, your bus driver, your boss, your friend, or your brother. And there is a fairly good chance you had no idea.
To celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week from October 4 to 10, Vancity Buzz will be publishing stories from readers who have struggled with mental illness either currently or in the past.
Kathryn Armstrong, 24 – student, accounting assistant, server
So basically your brain chemicals are imbalanced and your perfect and post card life doesn’t seem so perfect anymore.
And you can’t get out of bed, you think negative thoughts about yourself, you hate your life and you start to ruin relationships with your friends, family and coworkers because you can’t control your feelings or temper.
Then you drop out of school and take a leave from work because any form of stress from even just going to class or taking an order at work started to kill you inside. To the point that the thought of school or work would cause a bed ridden panic attack and have you crawling for your inhaler. You realize you’ve spent more time in bed than out of bed and more times crying than smiling in over two months. And that getting out of bed to go pee, to only go back to bed was your biggest accomplishment out of any day. All the while, you’re laying in bed feeling like a failure because you couldn’t finish the last few weeks of school and you feel like you’ve disappointed everyone in your life and more importantly yourself and that you’re weak.
You should have tried harder.
You finally accept defeat and get help, then wait six weeks only for your medication to not actually work. Then your body is so weak mentally and physically because you’ve gone days without eating, that you’re now graced with an eating disorder and you’ve lost 20 pounds in an unhealthy amount of time.
Several different medications later while trying to find a perfect cocktail and you finally feel a little bit more like yourself. But in reality, this whole time, your life was really still perfect, on the outside, nothing happened and your friends and family never left your side. So how can you feel this way mentally and physically? Nothing changed but the chemical balance inside your brain which you had no control over.
Then your medication starts to work, you get back into school, take more shifts at work and start living your normal life again, now that there are not enough hours in the day to do all the things you want to do. But now you’re battling the reverse effect of that previous eating disorder and you just want to cry or get angry but your medication has numbed all feelings within yourself which now just causes built up frustration.
You’re back at school redoing the classes from the previous semester which now bring up past memories of the time you dropped out and now you feel like you’re weak because you should’ve finished those classes and you’re behind again in school.
But they say you’re not a failure because nothing is more terrifying and harder than battling with your own mind every hour of everyday.
You have a bad day and you try to explain to someone that you’re having a depressive day but they’re oblivious to mental health disorders and say it’s all just in your head.
It really is all just in my head.
And you try to hide your mental health disorder on social media because we live in a world where having a mental health disorder is a topic that is shoved under the table and frowned upon to talk about.
During recovery, you spend countless hours trying to find things that you enjoy and that clear your mind, to only have one thing go wrong at the wrong time and you’re back to square one. Last week I cried over the fact that my burger didn’t have cheese on it, but the next day I cried tears of happiness over how much my family and friends love me and support me.
This is a very short summary of my life with a mental health illness. There are never enough words or enough ways to try and explain what goes on in our uncontrollable minds. Admitting to others is the second hardest thing I’ve had to do, but it was absolutely the best thing I have ever done.
The amount of support and love you receive from you friends, family and even those you least expect is the most heart and mind warming thing ever. With it being hard to battle your mind every day, and it being hard to admit to others that you struggle, please take the time to support and love everyone in your life whether they are battling a mental health illness or not.
By taking a few seconds and just telling someone struggling with a mental health illness something as simple as that you hope they have a good day and that you’re thinking of them, can mean a hundred times more to them than it will to you.
For information and resources on mental illness, please visit the follow: