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Hold Our Hands: Fighting Mental Illness

Disclaimer: This blog post addresses heavier mental health topics than usual, including discussions of depression and self-harm. I am not a psychiatrist or a mental health specialist. I’m writing purely from an emotional standpoint–and because I just want to send out love and hope to anyone who happens to read this.

I apologize if this falls into an incoherent rant–but I don’t know, at this moment, how else to share.

But I am one human being–and it shatters me to know how many people I love are hurting in one way or another.

In May and June of this year alone, I learned that two people whom I admired and cared about took their lives. As recently as this week, I learned that more people that I care about are suffering from heavy mental issues.

It seems as if in the last few years, a terrifying epidemic continues to grow and spread on a global scale. The more and more I turn around, the more I learn that nearly everyone I know has had someone that they lost to suicide. It shocks me to see how…regular self harm has become, and that we as a culture are not pushing mental health–and the education of mental health–to a higher precedence in improving the varying levels the human condition.

It’s not just the education of outsiders’ behavior towards those with mental illness. It’s also the education of those who are struggling with mental illness themselves.

The latter part is where my current frustrations lie–because despite the American Psychiatric Association declaring mental illness should be taken as seriously as any other medical illness–we still don’t.

Mental illness is probably one of the cruelest illnesses of the present day. It is not a new illness (goodness knows it manifests itself under different names for centuries), but in a time where information about it is more prevalent and available to the masses than ever, many of us still try to fool ourselves into thinking we don’t have any problems. It does not manifest itself in a way that can be immediately recognized, let alone treated.

If we can stand, walk, drive, smile in the public eye–we are fine, and we should keep going. We have families to raise, children to support, parents to care for, lives to live. If there is nothing wrong physiologically, then there is no need to worry any of our loved ones.

Or worse–even if we told someone how poorly we feel, we wouldn’t be taken seriously. Because, after all, we “look okay.” We “sound” okay.

The longer the illness lays untreated, the darker and more warped the thoughts within our minds become.

You’re not sick. You’re just faking it to get some sympathy, or pity, or attention.

What are you complaining about? Nothing’s really wrong with you.

You’re not the only one with problems. Stop being selfish and think about someone else for a change.

You’re whining about nothing. No one cares.

The cruelest part about mental illness is what it makes you think about yourself–absolutely nothing.

But you are absolutely everything.

I won’t say any more cruel points.

I wrote this post, because I wanted it to be a proverbial hand reaching out for those who are struggling with the depths of their own mental illness.

I can tell you right now—whatever your mental illness is trying to feed you, it’s not true.

If you feel lost or disenchanted or alone, left behind–you are not. Beyond the darkness that is the illness, you have people who are holding you tightly, begging you to stay, begging you to fight against the cruel isolation that the illness can cause.

It is one of the toughest battles you will ever engage in, and it is a battle that you will have to fight every second of your life.

Please don’t let the negativity win.

Fight. Please fight. Fight against every cruel thought that tells you you are worthless and/or alone.

The illness would have you keep your eyes shut so that you can’t see the people in your life who love you dearly, who are reaching out to you.

  • The ones who invite you to lunch every day, even when you say no over and over.
  • The ones who stay on the phone with you at night, not saying a word, just so you can fall asleep.
  • The ones who text you silly memes just so you have something you have to reply to, and they know you are still there.
  • The ones who wave you over to their table, even if you just sit silently with the group.

The moment when you can open your eyes, you will see them right there, standing in front of you, smiling.

And you will realize that they’ve been there all along. They were just lovingly, patiently, happily waiting for you to see them again.

It hurts to know that I can’t stretch myself rice-paper thin and spread myself across everyone I love, shielding them from the cruelties of the outside world–and the darkness in their inner worlds.

I can’t be everything to everyone. I wish I could be. The whole nature of being human is to find the balance of taking care of yourself and caring for others.

No one can be “everything” to anyone. Nor should anyone try.

But I never want the people I love so much to not know how much I love them, and how I wish I could hold them all, always.

Depression is a cruel, selfish illness. It creates words and images to seduce its victims into thinking that every negative thought passing through their minds is the truth.

Here is the truth.

You are a life.

You are a beautiful, breathing life.

You take a breath, and therein is the proof that you exist for a reason.

You have skills and talent, and there are people who are excited and looking forward to seeing you remember just how much you enjoy engaging in those talents.

Mental illness would make you believe that those people and those talents don’t exist. It is wrong.

I wish there was a quick fix. I wish there was a way to make tomorrow the cure to mental illness, where today would be the last time the feelings of loss and hopelessness ever wash over you.

Crawling out of the darkness may be the hardest thing you ever do.

But you can. I believe in you. So many people believe in you.

Please, fight. Keep fighting. Don’t let mental illness win.

If you are struggling with thoughts of self harm and other symptoms of mental illness, please reach out to a mental health professional in your area or call The Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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