I want to talk about the after of a mental illness. The after when you are medically stable or not in need of therapy. The after when everyone around you, your friends and family, think that you’re back to normal, as if normal is something that either exists or something that should be aimed for. Funny thing is, most of the time, the after of a mental illness means learning to live with it, not living with its absence. It means learning to accommodate for your brain in ways that people who have never experienced mental illness don’t have to. Some mental illnesses can ‘go away’ so that you aren’t bothered by them ever again. You might have a brief bout of depression or an episode of anxiety that never bobs its head over into clinical illness again. Most times that isn’t the case, not really, and we don’t talk enough about learning to live with a brain that is chronically unwell or has the potential to be so, for the rest of your life.
I love Christmas, and I love to love Christmas. I love the fact that the entire month of December means Christmas. I love that every house has fairy lights up, and that makes everywhere look more welcoming and homely. I love that the dark is less dark, that we let a little bit of light in at one of the darkest times of the year. I love that it becomes okay to stay in with blankets and watch telly. I love that the TV is 90% reruns of everything that is good in the world.
10th October 2017 is World Mental Health Day. I started writing this article about 3 hours ago, and it turned into a rant about how awareness isn’t solving the mental ill-health of the population and we need to change the way we treat mental health, stop under funding it and actually give people the help they need and deserve. But just writing about how angry I am about the way mental health provisioning has been chronically underfunded and is insufficient for people’s needs isn’t going to help anyone so I deleted all the anger (apart from that bit there) and wrote about the things that help me with my mental health in the hope that they might help someone else.
I’m having a bit of a crisis of faith in myself. I am terrified that I am making all the wrong decisions and not doing everything that I should be. I feel like everybody I know has already done something since graduation: they’ve been travelling all over Asia, or Europe, they have done amazingly well for themselves and got a grad job, they’ve got married or moved into a their own house. I have spent this summer slowly doubting everything I’ve done. I haven’t left the country, I haven’t done anything spectacular, I haven’t volunteered or found a placement. I’m living at home for the foreseeable future with no real idea of what career I want to go into. I went on a two week holiday with my family and spent the rest of the time at home, reading, running and generally just spending the days doing not much at all.
I feel like travelling is an ‘in thing’ right now. If you haven’t done it, then someone else you know will have done, and most likely will have posted numerous photos on social media about it. I think it’s incredible that we are able to travel hundreds of miles away in machines that we have made and get to experience new cultures and see sights that generations ago, no one in the family or town would have ever imagined seeing.
I’m really tired of the ‘us and then’ mentality that some people have regarding mental health. Usually, the ‘them’ are people with a mental illness or who are in mental distress. After recent trips to A & E to visit a relative, I have had to listen to this kind of damaging opinion being thrown about (usually about other people in the hospital) and it has made me annoyed enough that I thought I would shout into the void about it. And if I’m being honest it might not even flow properly because I wrote this at like 11pm last night and I am still annoyed.