In the sudden influx of topics regarding mental illness on social media, there was one update from an Facebook “friend” that didn’t sit well with me. At all.
I like to think I’m open-minded and – with the condition we use civility, sensitivity and a HUGE serving of non-judgment – there’s space for everyone in this world to speak their peace.
But don’t start talking about the state of someone’s mental health when you have no clue what exactly was going on.
Don’t make assumptions that just because they were a TV personality or they lived in a plush apartment overlooking Sydney’s watersedge, life was spanking perfect.
A little over a year ago, I was apprehensive to start telling people that I had been diagnosed with depression, stress and anxiety.
Like, how do you bring it into conversation over casual coffee?
But when I did, people would say things that I’m sure they thought were “compliments” but really, it would’ve been better if someone came around and slapped some duck tape over their mouths.
“Aren’t you grateful for what you have?”
For me, it’s never been about being sad or sore about what I don’t have. In fact, I’m extremely gracious – for my family, my health, my friends.
I count my blessings every day and I have my own God who I give thanks to.
But who’s to argue with me that every day life isn’t stressful?
For me it was about trying to stay abreast of my responsibilities as a mother to newborn twins who were 5 weeks premature. Like having them in NICU for 2 weeks wasn’t emotionally taxing?
Lack of sleep, lack of priority on my own health, lack of human interaction; all of that added to the fact that the first 2 – 3 years of motherhood felt like I was struggling to keep my head above water.
But not for a second was I ungrateful for what I have.
“But you’re a strong person…”
Yeah, and what of it? Being strong takes strength. And sometimes it’s not sustainable. In fact, it’s just bloody tiring.
Sometimes strength is mistaken for resistance. We think that if we just keep fighting those negative feelings and just try to plough through, we’re doing really well.
And yes, that might work.
However, we forget the importance of acceptance.
Rather than accepting our mistakes or the fact we don’t feel “on top of things”, us humans mistakenly drum it in our heads that life needs to be robot perfect. Especially when it honestly isn’t.
The important thing is to seek help and support if those dark feelings have been going on for too long.
When I asked my GP if I should start thinking about weaning myself off my anti-depressants she said flatly, “You’re a mum to twins. I suggest you get all the support you can get for now.”
“But you’re always so happy and cheerful…”
Again, what of it? Like being strong, trying to stay happy and cheerful can be hard work.
And for me, it was the fact that I was trying to appease everyone; that I was fulfilling my “duties” as a mum, wife and daughter (in-law).
I had everything what I ever wanted, right? Family, husband, kids? I should be happy! Every single moment!
My mother-in-law spent a LOT of time over at our place in the first 6 months the twinions were born.
Not realizing it at the time, having someone who – let’s face it – I really didn’t know that well, constantly over my shoulder when I had just recently married her son 3 months prior – there wasn’t much room for my own emotional or physical space. It was overwhelming, to say the least.
Simply, it was hard to be myself. I was trying to keep up a pretence while in hindsight, maybe that’s when I actually started to lose part of my identity.
I don’t regret having her with us at all. Her help was much appreciated. But gee, it was challenging.
There are no hard fast rules or straight up solutions to one’s mental illness.
For me, it’s about taking every day for what it is; different from the last and unknown to what it will be tomorrow.
But to also try and tap into those emotions again – whatever they may be.
For support and information about Suicide Prevention contact:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636