The truth about our state of mind is scary. A mental illness is not something you can just will away, and will fester over time. I learnt something; and that mental health & mental illness run on different spectrums. Often, many people run on autopilot – we go about functioning and performing day-to-day tasks, but we neglect to see we’re becoming more hollow and empty as time flits past. These individuals are languishing, and they need a time out.
As peers and friends, we need to instill hope & it should be a positive thing. But the thing that kills is when people start passing judgement. They say those afflicted with mental distress are weak, that they’re cuckoo or having a breakdown – they whisper hushed comments, or avoid them. But do you really think that’s what they need? Do you think they aren’t already trying? And that what they feel is genuine – that it’s already terrible enough to live with without your input? And there’s another flip side to this.
When we try to help, we need to come with the right mindset. We’re only here to understand, not critique the person. Nor are we in the right to expect something from him or her. Don’t expect gratitude, nor a positive change. It might be met with resistance, and it might even deteriorate – dragging all your own insecurities to the surface to the point it becomes hard to ignore.
While I was at IMH for a mental health literacy workshop yesterday, I wasn’t too surprised to hear that the facilitator herself had colleagues who treated patients; only to become deluded and depressed themselves. Life has an uncanny way of turning tables.
Another case that resonated with me was that of a 19 year old girl who developed a chronic case of social anxiety. She had been skipping school for weeks, and became very uncomfortable in public spaces – but was interacting well with her family members. The participants of this workshop were quick to label her as a youth with early psychosis, and unfortunately, so was her family.
They unwittingly brought her in to SAMH (Singapore Association for Mental Health) for a mental health check-up in the hopes that it would mend her, but it only aggravated her condition. It turned out that she was facing immense pressure from school – from her studies and peers alike and was actually trying to rehabilitate herself by seeking the company of her family – people whom she thought she could trust. When she found out that she had been tricked, she became withdrawn and slowly descended into late-onset schizophrenia.
Everyone has their coping mechanism; it’s personal and you won’t understand it – but it’s just polite to nod and go with it. Because it’s what your friend needs, and you’re not in a position to dictate how he or she should feel; but rather, accept it. It only takes a person who has suffered mental distress before to be able to go down to their level and understand, and even then it’s just a fraction of what they are truly experiencing.
To the sufferers, learn to let go and live. Life is simple if we make it that way. Don’t think of the things we need to accomplish, or the people we have to please because it’s all about us. We’re in charge here, and we’re in control. And if the going gets tough, then get up and fight. Every day is a struggle but as long as we’re still breathing; it’s a day to conquer and win. Be strong & love yourself ❤