When a person is struggling with mental illness, there’s a tremendous sense of guilt experienced that people will never understand.
There’s a remorse, a resentment one holds for themselves. A sense of self loathing for not being the best parent you wish you could be. A self-condemnation for lacking the capability to be the “ideal” spouse. A culpability for not being able to function like the standard human who is able to support themselves. A humiliation for being unable to handle life’s simple tasks without drowning in them.
The daily mission becomes to survive. That’s your job. Coping skill, after coping skill, after coping skill. Self help books, essential oils, candles, support groups, walking, meditation…Shit, you’ve got the whole tool box! Well done!
You’ve brought yourself up, good for you. Success…but only for today… because you know… Oh! How well do you know… the slightest trigger could bring you….
Right. Back. To. Square. One.
That part where you feel like the sun left the Earth. It’s up to you to use your tools and dig. Dig, dig and dig. Climb, climb and climb, towards the ray of light peering through that little hole in the roof of the cave you’re living in.
Finally, hands bloodied and raw, you’re out. Job well done.
Up until the next time something sets you off or overwhelms you….
Back. To. Square. One.
You want to know the worst part of all of it? Trying to explain this to someone who’s never experienced it. The look on a persons face… the disgust, confusion, the pity, the annoyance, the exasperation….What’s worse, you can’t even blame them! You know that what’s coming out of your mouth sounds like a crock of shit. Like some sort of alibi, a cop out as an answer for why you can’t seem to get your shit together.
Except, why would anyone make this shit up? Why on Earth would a human being “pretend” to be mentally ill? There’s no gratification in feeling inadequate. There’s no fulfillment in being looked down upon. There’s no pride in feeling and appearing useless.
So…seek help? Sounds easy enough, right? Except it’s not. You do so, and you are transferred to a million and one departments. You’re put on hold, countless times before speaking to a human being, only to be told cheerfully “Sorry, we can’t help you” right before receiving a hang up and being left with only a deafening dial tone to listen to. You’re referred to clinic after clinic before finding the right one. Guess what though? They don’t have their next opening until the next six months. So, that suicidal thought you had? Hold that thought. You can discuss that with your therapist in September.
You can always admit yourself to a hospital, right? Except the conditions you have to go through to do, so are disgusting. Being exposed to others much more unhinged than you are. In the outside world, you were afraid of yourself. Now, other people are a threat. Others who are experiencing such paranoia, they’ve imagined you’ve engaged in some sort of dilemma with them. They now want to physically fight with you. Another demanding a shower, but not being given a towel immediately, so he strips for all to see his penis. Only to then proceed in giving himself a birdbath in the communal sink. Or trying to talk to a loved on the phone, and having another patient hovering over you for the sake of having something to do. Let’s not forget! There’s always the option to be shipped off to a facility in another state, hours away from family and friends being able to visit, if this one isn’t to your liking. Oh, how rejuvenating.
This is why people give up and decide the better option is to not exist. Not because they are weak. Not because they decided to give up. It’s because they are EXHAUSTED. All options were exercised and they failed. Failed by those who “didn’t see it coming”. Failed by a very flawed mental health system. Failed by those who chose judgement over putting that expensive smart phone to use and learning about the cause. Failing to learn that this demon you’re facing, it’s as real as the wind, the oxygen in the room and the blood that pumps through all our veins.
People don’t give up because they are cowards. People give up because after all that digging, the climbing, desperately clawing at small ray of light shining above them, they are destitute, depleted. They are bloodied, bruised and bare. They decide that surrendering to the nothingness that’s been tempting them all along, just might be better than the pain that’s haunted them for ages.
Want to help someone you suspect/know is mentally ill? You probably do know someone, before you assume you don’t, FYI. This is the order of top ten leading deaths in the US.
1. Heart disease
2. Cancer (malignant neoplasms)
3. Chronic lower respiratory disease
4. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
5. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
6. Alzheimer’s disease
8. Influenza and pneumonia
9. Kidney disease (nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis)
Now, according to statistics, 1 in every 4-5 people are struggling with a mental illness.
My friends, you do the math.
RESEARCH about it, especially before trying to hand over advice. Reach out to them. Ask them if they are ok. If they want to talk, and if so, listen before trying to find a solution. Sometimes, people just want to be heard. Offer to visit. Be present, emotionally supportive, open minded and free of judgement. Be forgiving and learn how to distinguish your loved ones actions from the disease.
It’s not your job to fix/heal someone. However, the guilt you will feel if you had the opportunity to offer the support and you refused because you decided you had something better to do instead, is eternal. One small gesture can make a world of a difference in a person mentally suffering.
To my friends who are suffering silently,
If any of you are ever struggling mentally and need to speak to someone immediately, here are some resources for you to use:
You can also chat or text with a mental health counselor at