Living with a mental illness can be crippling in the everyday lives of the sufferer. Simple tasks such as going outside, making friends, going to work, or even spending time with family: these are all simple things that, for somebody in mental distress, can be much more challenging.
I speak to you as a sufferer of depression. I cannot comment on the specific difficulties of sufferers of bipolar disorder, or schitzophrenia, however I feel that my six and a half years of experience with depression puts me in a position to speak as someone who understands the pain.
When depression takes a hold, everyday life becomes a struggle in itself. Waking up in the morning is harder, because no matter how much you sleep, you never feel refreshed. You lack the energy to get out from under the covers and open the curtains. Outside it may be a beautiful day, but when your mood is low and lethargy is present, it sometimes doesn’t matter what is happening outside of your window. At times, the acts of showering, brushing your hair or brushing your teeth, become hard. When all you want to do is lay in bed it can be difficult to kickstart your day.
However, even if you are able to complete these tasks with relative ease, the bigger things in life are not so easy to accomplish. Take my current situation. I have just finised my final year at university. I now have 2 months in which to find a job in order to fund my living expenses at the end of my tenancy. The negativity that stays with me because of depression makes me doubt my every move. It is currently so crippling that I can’t even bring myself to send a single job application. How many chances have I lost because I scared myself out of it? And even when I think I have it under control, and the application is ready to go, the anxiety throws at me images of rejection and embarrassment that stop me from sending it off. What if my CV isn’t right? Do I have enough work experience? What if I don’t have good enough qualifications? How will I ever be able to pull it together long enough to ace an interview? All that stress. It’s devastating.
Every single thing I do is ruled over by depression. My eating pattern is so out of sync that after half a digestive biscuit and four sips of tea, I was full. I have an anxiety over cooking and eating in front of people, which makes it hard living in a shared house. I worry that they’ll judge me for what I eat. I worry they’ll see me cooking and wonder why I need food, surely I’m heavy enough already? I even get preoccupied with the fact my boyfriend is lighter than me. Without the heaviness of anxiety that comes with the depression gig, I’m sure I’d have a more positive outlook on the situation. I know that my anxieties and fears are in my mind, and that nobody really cares, but when you live life in the deep-end it’s hard to remember you can swim.
I once heard the phrase “you are only the main character in your own story. To everybody else you are merely a blip in their own plotline.” This, I feel, is a very important phrase. To those of us who have tasted the fear of rejection, of embarrassment, of apprehension, it may seem a mammoth task. But it is very helpful to remind ourselves of it everyday. In our own stories, we are the only one who truly matters. We worry about ourselves, and those we hold dear. The other people we pass in the street mean very little to us in the grand scheme of things. We see blurs of faces smudged out by the ego of ourselves, and we forget those smudges before too long. To the bus driver who waited while you struggled to add the change you needed, you are an ant. He doesn’t care for you, nor your ant-hill, he only cares that he gets his money and he can be home for tea at seven. To the server at McDonalds who listens to you stammer out your order worried he will call you fat for ordering a bigger burger, you are dust. He doesn’t feel a thing for you, he only wants to do his job to get the money for a new games console.
We need to stop worrying about the little things. But do you think depression will let us do that? No, sir. We need to push past that. Everytime your inner monologue starts reeling what ifs and buts you have to tell it “no, I willl not hear you.” Be mindful of the possibilities but do not let them make your choice. It is your life to be lived as you want. If you want that cheeseburger with fries, you walk up to that counter and you state your intention. You look him in the eye and smile because, you know what?, a cheeeburger sounds damned good right now and it’s just about lunchtime.
Life is a war, and every day is a battle. You won’t win them all. some days will be spent in the foetal position in the dark. But some days you will wake up and tell your depression, “no, I will not hear you.” You will pull yourself out of bed, throw open your curtains to the day and announce yourself to the world. “I am awake. I am alive. And I am coming for you.”