We Are Not The Same

Dealing with the do’s and don’ts of mental illness

(obvious trigger warnings ahead)

Sometimes I don’t think I’m in denial about the state of my mental health, but then incidences like the one I’m about to share occur and I suddenly realise I’m actually still not totally okay with admitting that I’m sick.

Flashback 2 weeks ago or so. I’m drinking with my friends when all of I sudden I get the feeling that someone’s pressing down on my chest; I can’t really breathe. My heart isn’t pounding just yet but it will, soon. I can recognise this feeling by now. I don’t really know what it is — some part of me thinks its just the alcohol settling into my system since I don’t drink very much. But at the same time, something doesn’t feel right. I don’t feel lighter, or happier, or any of those feelings I associate with being tipsy/drunk. Something is wrong.

ICYMI: I’m having a panic attack, and I’m too busy trying to rationalise why I’m feeling this way to actually deal with the idea that I need to go back and rest ASAP.

I live in a state of functioning terror for the rest of the week. It’s honestly terrible because it lurks under the surface of my personality, and I can feel it waiting to drag me back under. Even going to counselling for the first time in a long time doesn’t do much—yet another first. I’m starting to think this year is going to be much more trying than my schedule might suggest.

But I’m also angry for the longest time, angry that yet another activity has been taken away from me. I guess that’s the best way I can articulate it; it feels like my depression/anxiety are stealing things from my life and, by extension, hijacking my personality. Friends have to tailor their activities to suit my needs, although in fairness a few of them have already begun to do this in some way. Somehow when you tell people that you’re struggling mentally they decide to do you a favour and censor their life for fear of making you feel worse.

For the record, I know that no one who behaves this way has bad intentions (hopefully, I’m trying to be optimistic here). But it can be kind of hurtful because it feels like you don’t trust me. Depression is an incredibly isolating experience — I don’t need you excluding me even further. I shouldn’t/won’t feel bad if you tell me something good happened to you today. In that same vein, you telling me something that you deem “depression” isn’t actually going to make me even more depressed. That’s not how it works.

To everyone who is suffering from mental illness and feels otherwise, I’ll say this: we can’t really be like everyone else. We have new, terrifying demons to fight. We are not the same. But that doesn’t mean our lives are more invalid. Someone else’s happiness shouldn’t make you feel jealousy in that you “can never be happy again”, nor should their sadness make you angry because you don’t see it as true sadness. Don’t hold your life to the same nebulous standards everyone else seems to uphold (plot twist: they don’t exist). Just because I can’t drink, feel inspired, or at times even leave the hall/house does not mean that my life has stalled. It’s a shitty life, sure. It doesn’t feel great. But don’t let that knowledge shake you to the core—you are still you, as you will always be, even on days when you can’t really see it. And perhaps, more importantly, you are still alive. You have not given up on the prospect that things will maybe hopefully get better. And that’s a pretty damn good thing on its own.

I think the reason why I wrote my last post so well was because I thought I’d become stable. I thought I’d just imagined how I felt the past term. I thought that maybe, being “overemotional” and “sensitive”, I’d just exaggerated my situation and slapped a medical term on it to try and validate my feelings. And I apologise for that — I’m still trying to journey with this, and I’m not very good at it. I was optimistic that I’d suddenly become well soon enough, but that shouldn’t be the case. So now I’m just optimistic that I’ll still be alive, in the months to come, and I’ll wait for the triumph that will come from being right.

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