When depression hit me earlier this year, it hit me like a pile of bricks flying towards me at the speed of light. Needless to say, I didn’t see it coming and I definitely did not expect it to hit me as hard as it did.
When it comes to mental health, many people are under the assumption that the symptoms can be felt creeping up on you until they eventually overtake you and, so long as you catch the symptoms before they catch you, you’ll generally be fine.
However, the harsh reality is that most mental diseases hits you hard, fast, and without any warning at all. And, sometimes just as painfully, they can leave without any warning as well.
You see, mental illnesses don’t play by any set of rules. They don’t follow your schedule and come at convenient times – in fact, most times they come when it’s least convenient – and they don’t care if they ruin your life in the process.
In that respect, mental illnesses are like heart attacks; where they suddenly creep up, take total control over your body, and land you in the hospital for the next week.
Mental illness becomes an everyday battle just as much as a physical illness. While a dislocated knee will keep you from walking around your house all day, a severe depression will do just the same; crippling the joints of your mind rather than your body.
Furthermore, many people assume that mental illness becomes easier to deal with after the first impact; that somehow being socked in the face repeatedly by a brick hurts any less the hundredth time around.
Well frankly, it doesn’t.
The feeling of your mental illness dragging you down never becomes any less uncomfortable. The only thing that changes is your reaction to the illness, which allows you to better cope with mental illness.
Finally, one of the biggest misconceptions about mental illness is that the mentally ill person has control over their mind and therefore can control their illness.
This is simply false.
While I might be in control of my mind, I am in no more control over a mental illness than I would be over a broken leg. The only thing I have control over is my reaction to the disease. And even though I am more than my mental illness, I would be a fool to say that I have any true control over it.
In fact, most therapy practices focus on coping with mental illness rather than beating it. That’s because, unlike a physical disease, most mental illnesses can’t be beat. They linger in your mind until one day they don’t or they stick with you throughout your life and you must learn to cope; to live semi-symbiotically with some monster in your head.
And that’s the harsh reality of mental illness. I can never defeat the brick that’s eternally flying at my face. Yes, medications and therapy and coping skills can help me meet that brick less often, or less intensely, but the reality of it is that all I can do is accept the impact and learn to cope with the fallout each time.
And that’s why, even when people who suffer from mental illness have fulfilling and seemingly happy lives, many people with mental illness don’t make it to the ends of their lives as they should.
There is nothing glamorous about coping with a brick in your face, and after years of constant pounding it can become difficult to keep your head up any longer.
It’s why people with mental illness attempt to quit life, and attempt to quit life often.
But, if you are suffering from mental illness, you must find the strength and bravery to realize that the brick flying at you is only one piece of life; a piece that is skewing your vision and making itself seem bigger than it actually is.
The brick is a trap. It wants you to focus, to use your energy on it and you simply can’t let that happen. Accept the presence of the brick, and chip away at it with therapy and medicines and coping skills, and use all the rest of your energy to focus on life and making the brick seem insignificant against the beauty which you can create with your energy.
Mental illness can feel undeniably hopeless, but that doesn’t mean that hopelessness has to translate into the rest of your life. By recognizing that your life is more than an illness, you can realize that not all of life is hopelessness. Sure, some moments may seem without hope, but that there is life outside of your illness is hope in and of itself. Latch onto that hope and never let it go.
There may be no defeating the brick, at least not yet, but that doesn’t mean you have to let the brick defeat you.
Let me know about how you deal with the feelings of hopelessness that mental illness can cause in the comments below.