It's terrible, isn't it? I have an enormous amount of respect for the people who live with it. Many people I love struggle with some form, but it is a struggle I can only begin to imagine.
On February 8th, Bell hosted Let's Talk day, and I think it's a fabulous step. We shouldn't have to work to remove the shame of mental illness. People with mental illnesses should absolutely be able to live their lives without feeling shame that they have an illness. We need to yell from the rooftops that it's OK! You don't have to be ashamed. The people I know that suffer from this illness inspire me beyond words.
Mental Illness is like any other disease. Sufferers should have the ability to disclose or withold the nature of their illness, as they see fit. We all need to learn to be more supportive and try to be more understanding. Because it's hard isn't it? Those who don't suffer from mental illness can't truly understand what its like. But we can accept.
But that's not what I feel the need to write about. Instead, let's talk for a minute about the ones left behind. The ones who are holding it together. The foundation, if you will. It seems, to me at least, that we are often forgotten.
We are the person who sits at home or work, wondering how to "fix" the person they love. The ones who desperately try to make it seem to the outside world as if everything is ok. Who put their needs aside, because they are terrified, terrified of what may come if they let their guard down for even an instant. The ones who may be struggling with the weight of it all, but believe that if they let go, even a little bit, that the person they're supporting will collapse. The ones who are walking on eggshells because they don't want to be a trigger.
Mental illness doesn't just affect the person who is afflicted, it affects everyone in their circle. Family, friends, co-workers. Damage is done, and it can't be undone. The hurts and wounds can be forgiven. Forgiveness is easy because we know that our loved one - who is so desperately trying to get better - has absolutely no intent to hurt you. It's easy to forgive.
But it's not forgotten. It can't be undone.
You're left wondering, when you are the support, the foundation, the glue.....who's going to hold it together for YOU? The foundation of a house is only as solid as the ground it sits on.
And it's hard. Really hard. Because here's the thing. When you suffer from a mental illness, it's your illness, your symptoms, your story to share or tell. Or not.
But when you love, support and are trying to help someone with mental illness find their way, their illness is a great big part of your story, but it's a part that isn't yours to tell.
To tell of the actions they have taken, or the thoughts they have shared, feels like, is, a betrayal. You're so afraid that other people's perceptions of your loved one will change, because quite likely, the things you could tell them, WILL change perceptions. We're only human after all.
It's not always this hard. Somedays you know you can do it, other are filled with doubt.
So here's my request. If you know someone who suffers from mental illness, be accepting, forgiving and supportive. And if you know someone who is their main support system, call them up, take them for a coffee, and ask them how they're doing. Let them know that you are there to prop them up when they need it. Be their solid ground. Because often it feels like you are carrying the weight of the world. And the weight of the world can cause stress fractures in your soul.