TW: death and suicide
“Everybody has a mental illness now.”
“Back in my day we didn’t need all this medication. We got kicked outside to work in the yard if we were sad.”
“These kids wouldn’t survive back in my day.”
And yeah. You’re probably right. They wouldn’t have survived.
They would have died.
Because that’s what happens when mental illnesses aren’t treated. People die.
Or people live miserable lives, passing their pain on and on and on.
I would argue that more people seem to suffer from various illnesses of this nature because now we’re actually medicating them and getting them help. They’re living longer and therefore their stories are more prominent in society.
And hallelujah to that. I think we can all agree we’ve lost some pretty incredible people far too soon because of an illness left untreated.
Shall I name them? No. I don’t have to. You’re thinking of someone right now.
We’ve all lost someone to a mental illness. Whether an acquaintance, a friend, family member or favorite talented celebrity.
We just don’t talk about it at the family dinner table. It’s whispered about in dark corners and shoved to the side of our minds we ignore.
But mental illnesses like depression have the same worst case scenario as cancer when left untreated.
Yet, for some reason, we’re fine with people going to get chemo but all weirded out when someone needs to go to a psychiatric facility to be treated.
When someone survives cancer, we cheer! When someone survives depression, it “must not have been that bad then.”
No more. No more hiding in the shadows. No more portraying the mentally ill as either creative geniuses or another tragic story we watch on television or nothing at all.
The mentally ill look like the father trying his best to hold down a job and love his children.
The mentally ill look like the teacher who instructs your kids.
The mentally ill look like the daughter who lost her mother 5 years ago.
The mentally ill look like the religious leader who cares for their flock.
The mentally ill look like the politicians we vote for.
The mentally ill look like the cashier bagging your food with a small smile on his face.
The mentally ill look like the anxious student who desperately wants to please her parents with straight As.
The mentally ill look like the new mother on your Facebook feed holding her newborn child.
The mentally ill look like the police officer who sees the worst in humanity everyday and still gets up to do their job.
The mentally ill look like the veteran who never could adjust after the war.
The mentally ill look like the poor, the destitute, the homeless and the forgotten of society.
The mentally ill look like the people you walk past every single day.
And yes, there are many. There are many who suffer for varying lengths of time. Some for a few months or years, some for the whole of their lives.
Perhaps we find the openness of people sharing their struggles a bit inconvenient. Maybe we wish they would continue to suffer alone because at least then we wouldn’t feel this nagging pressure in the back of our minds to offer relief.
If they must suffer, can’t they just do it quietly? Can’t they just slowly disappear into nothingness so we can go ahead and get on with grieving them? After all, perhaps it’s “easier” to grieve the mentally ill than it is to actually provide the support they need to make it through.
It’s “easier” planning for a funeral than it is to be in the trenches with our mentally ill loved ones. It’s so inconvenient to constantly check up on people, telling them we’re incredibly happy they’re alive.
It’s “easier” to write a nice speech for a funeral than it is to tell someone all the nice things we think about them while they’re actually alive and breathing.
While they can still hear you.
Actually no. It’s not easier at all.
That’s what makes it all so sad.
But I believe the times are changing. I believe we’re moving into a new era where we aren’t so afraid of reaching out and letting people know we care.
A time when talk therapy, medication, service animals, marijuana, herbal remedies, art therapy, music therapy, weighted blankets, meditation, coping techniques and mechanisms aren’t so taboo.
A time when we admit that we are all just people in this world trying to live the happiest lives we find ourselves able to achieve. Lives filled with more good times than bad ones, if we can manage it.
And sometimes that goal is hard to do, so we surround each other with support and encouragement.
Because when we reach out looking for a hand to hold, usually there’s someone there with their hand out too. But everyone is afraid of making that first move.
I think we’re learning though. We’re learning that it’s okay to admit that life is hard a lot of the time and we really can’t make it on our own, can we? We truly can’t.
So does “everybody have a mental illness now?”
No, not everyone.
But are there a lot?
Yes. Yes there are. And they are living longer.
What does that mean?
It means maybe we’re moving towards a more empathetic society where survival isn’t only for the fittest.
I guess I just see that as an intrinsically good thing. ❤️