I guess it’s been roughly 2 years since I started taking a hard look at my own mental health, and just over a year since I’ve been diagnosed. Really times and dates aren’t what’s important here — I guess I’m just adding them as a rough timeline for whenever I come back to read this.
Lies — I think I’m going to start telling people that struggling with Anxiety Disorder and Depression, no matter if you’re “high functioning” or not, is about lies. Whatever chemical processes are screwed up in my brain, the result is lies.
The first and probably most destructive lies are the ones I tell myself. Ugly, stupid, unskilled, don’t learn from my mistakes, lazy, copycat, faker, false, invisible, unloved and unlovable — the list is endless, but these are the general ones that come up, anywhere from a very few times a day to an almost-constant bombardment of them from the moment I wake up to the time I finally fall asleep…and even then it has on rare occasions crept into my dreams. These lies beat against you like waves on a rock, slowly and steadily eroding your self-confidence. You begin to believe the bullshit the disease is telling you. “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels. In this case, the propaganda is yourself turning against…yourself. You do, in every matter of speaking, become your own worst enemy. You poison your own well, while desperately trying to seek fresh, clean water — only to have that one poisoned as well.
The ability to manage (I won’t say overcome, or defeat) this disease, this illness, is in the ability to see this for what it is. Medication helps, absolutely. Mindfulness, meditation, cognitive behaviour therapy, all are wonderful and effective tools to be used together to help keep things somewhat under control — but in my experience the biggest thing is recognizing that I’m being lied to by myself, even if at that point I’m powerless to believe anything else, or to counter it with actual truth.
The other part where lies become such a destructive force with this illness is the lies I constantly tell other people. I tell them “I’m fine/good/doing well” and quickly flip the conversation to deflect any more attention on me. I do it out of fear (what will people think of me?) out of shame (this is really nasty, and people really don’t understand, or want to understand), out of just not wanting to poison others with my toxic, negative thoughts. Its bad enough I struggle with this, why would I want to drag someone else down with my burdens? I’ll often lie so I don’t have to face the truth — some days are literally hell, and I’m keeping my temper, sanity, and anxiety held together with a few frayed threads of self control. If I say that I’m ok often enough, maybe it’ll actually happen and I’ll be ok. I lie because I’m lied to — I tell myself lies because this ridiculous illness is hell-bent on destroying me and everything I come in contact with, so I’m better off isolating myself as much as possible, and putting up a good front — a barrier between the toxicity within and the good people I care about.
And as I type this I’m getting angry and frustrated. Becase some days it’s like a train wreck. I know I’m doing horrible, and I know people who are genuinely concerned are asking because they care and want to be involved in my life no matter what and despite knowing that I’ll look them in the eyes and say I’m doing great…knowing I’m lying to them out of habit and not being able to stop myself. I HATE THIS FUCKING DISEASE because it’s turned me into a liar. People can’t trust a liar — and even those who know what’s going on, know sometimes they’re hearing bullshit come out of my lips.
I hate this disease. I hate how it consumes people, and kills them with it’s brutal waves of lies. I hate how it changes people from outgoing, positive, energetic people into ghostly shells of a human, scarcely having the will to feed themselves much less deal with day-to-day life of jobs and bills and cleaning and shopping and family and socializing with friends. I hate that it changes people, eats them up and destroys them like acid on a delicate plant. It rots you from your mind, all the while lying to you that you’re better off dead.
I’m angry that it’s so misunderstood. It’s more than “thinking happy thoughts” or that other people have it worse than me so I shouldn’t be depressed. (To which my response is, “yes, but others have it far better than I do, and they still struggle with depression!”). I hate that people think depression=sadness. I hate that people think it’s “just a phase” or that its just seeking attention and being dramatic.
I hate that I’m not going to be the last one to suffer from it. I hate that it’s going to continue to take loved ones away. I hate that it drives people to take their life, not because they’re seeking death itself but that death seems the only way to quiet the voices and thoughts in their head. What I wouldn’t give to be the last person on the planet to ever suffer from mental illness.
And yet in a twisted way, I’m thankful for the ignorance and stigma. Because the ignorance means they don’t have a hot clue what it’s like. And believe me — if I’m honest, I don’t want anyone to really understand, because saying and meaning that you understand what it’s like to live with Anxiety and Depression (or other mental illnesses) means you’ve lived with it and experienced it. And even one more person getting a diagnosis, one more person taking their life out of desperation, one more person fighting the lies within their mind…. is already one too many.
** If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, cutting, or anything like that please seek help. Call your local crisis line. It’s not an easy battle, but it’s one that cannot be faced alone. It must be dealt with in community, with support groups, and with professional advice. Don’t wait **