How has mental illness affected me personally?

Last month was Mental Health Awareness Month.  And I missed it by a day.  Anyways, one of my favorite bloggers, The Bloggess, posted these questions, and I wanted to share my answers to them with you.  To read my past post on my fight with Depression, please see #IWishMyFriendsKnew.

HOW HAS MENTAL ILLNESS AFFECTED YOU PERSONALLY?  WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT THAT MIGHT HELP OTHERS?

How has mental illness affected me personally: Some days it has made it hard to get out of bed.  Some days it has made it hard to go out of the house, or into my car.  Some days, it has been hard to not drive my car into a tree.  It has affected me in the most personal ways possible.  I’ve been hurting too bad to be a good son or husband or father or friend.  I’ve been hurting too bad to write or work or exist.  Some days, I am just too tired, too worn out, or too exposed.  Some days, I’m just angry or frightened to say hello, let alone do anything more than that.

But that’s my own battle with it, but I have friends and family whose battle with mental illness has affected me.  I have been scared of them.  Scared for them.  I have worried that I won’t be able to help.  I have felt held against my will by their battle; like a casualty in a battle I didn’t know was being fought.  I have been witness to addiction, to depression, to bi-polar and manic depression.  I have talked to friends in the middle of the night, and watched the downward spiral of a great guy because of alcohol.

Mental illness is intensely personal.

What did I learn from it that might help others:  I have learned to be patient.  To be willing to just be there.  To just be.  I have learned that sometimes it is ok to just sit in the sunshine and enjoy a gentle breeze.  That you should tell someone, not because they will try to make you better, but because sometimes, saying it breaks the chains.  If someone tells you that they’re fighting an inner demon, ask them what they need, tell them you are here for them, and that you love them.  Offer to let them hold your dog.  Go for a walk.  Drink some water, you’re probably dehydrated anyways.  Eat a chocolate chip cookie, stat.  Read a good book…but probably not Hemingway.  Watch Top Gear or Faulty Towers or Doctor Who.  Do not listen to songs from your childhood, unless it is a theme by John Williams.  Most of all, understand that it is ok to feel this way.  It’s not ok to stop fighting.  To stop believing that life will get better.  That you are past help.  You are worth fighting for.

Depression Lies.

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