I remember spending seventeen to eighteen hours of the day in bed, not wanting to move, not wanting to eat. Those little things like brushing my teeth or brushing my hair would seem like preposterous tasks. It would feel like I was dragging myself through each day of my life waiting for a better tomorrow, waiting for something good to happen. It was as if I was living the same day repeatedly. The sun would rise and then set. That was the only change that was happening around me and even that was highly predictable. Everything had become hopeless.
Being a writer became a tough job because I had nothing to write about for a long time. Weeks passed by and my poetry feed remained empty. I started to lose followers, my readers started wondering if I had quit, but the reality was that I was lacking inspiration in so many ways. I didn’t know what to write, not even a word.
Each time I used to look at myself in the mirror, and that too not very often, I used to see a complete mess, from head to toe. I have had creative hobbies like cooking, photography, drawing, learning about all sorts of makeup, painting and crafting but slowly I watched all my hobbies fade away and then disappear. I didn’t have the energy or an interest in doing anything, not even the things I loved doing. Panic attacks became regular; even if something very tiny happened, I would take twenty times more stress in every situation than I should.
My body started craving huge amounts of sugar and carbs, I gained weight, became prone to hypersomnia, chronic pain, nausea, fatigue, forgetfulness, and at one point I suffered from the irritable bowel syndrome and what not. This was not a question of just a few days or months. In my case everything was more persistent, it was taking away years of my life and there was no antidote, it only got worse.
Even the weather started to affect my moods dramatically, winters were worse and what surprised me was how calm and carefree I appeared to the outside world. I kept my family and friends unaware of everything that was bothering me because somewhere in my mind I had the fear of being judged or neglected. Mental health isn’t taken as seriously as it should be and is often called “attention seeking” or “it’s all in your head”, and that is why I believed that sharing my feelings with anyone who didn’t understand was entirely futile.
We all need someone to be there for us in times that are tough. My ‘someone’ has always been my best friend, one of the most important people in my life. He never left my side and I don’t know what, where or if I’d be without him today. You cannot spend your whole life weeping and grieving in front of the world. From then on, I was willing to do anything and everything to achieve my goal. And my goal was to be happy.
This was my story, a bit about my personal struggle. Just like me and you, every person has a story. We may be capable of quickly judging someone, but we cannot see through them or their lives. While body language may help, what’s inside the mind is still always a mystery. We often hear that things are not what they seem to be and despite that, we forget this when it comes to the real world. Similarly, if we do not see a person physically bruised or scarred, we don’t accept that any damage has ever existed. It is impossible to tell by someone’s behavior what they are exactly thinking or what they are going through.
Let’s say your friend suddenly appears to be odd, angry, constantly fighting, misunderstanding you deliberately and you are tired of it. You then decide to break your friendship. Now think this way, what if I told you that your friend has a brain tumor that consequently impacted his body language, moods and his ability to react to situations and that his actions are beyond his control? Would your previous opinion about him change? Would you go back and try to help him deal with it?
Now think of the same situation but this time your friend is not suffering from a physical illness. This time he is suffering from high functioning anxiety and the bipolar disorder which are directly responsible for his mood swings and odd behavior. The difference between the two scenarios is that one of them consists of a tangible illness that people can physically look at and understand or detect in scanners or believe in its existence. In the second situation, the illness is physically undetectable, and it is possible that we may think that it is untrue just because we cannot see it. And that is exactly why many people do not think of it as a serious issue, instead, they think of it as ‘an excuse’ or even ‘attention seeking’.
One in every four people are affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, generalized anxiety disorder being the most common of them all. Anxiety often co-exists with other illnesses such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, etc. Like physical disorders, these can be temporary or persistent.
Although, multiple attempts have been initiated to change or improve the views of the society on this issue such as the “Mental health awareness month” and the “Mental health awareness week”, there are still innumerable amounts of people who do not think of it very deeply. And because the issue isn’t given as much importance as it should be given, many people suffer in silence and do not dare to speak up. Countless lives have been lost because some simply couldn’t bother helping or understanding and others chose to keep their condition to themselves. And we don’t know how many more it will take for everyone to realize its relevance.
Physical health and mental health may appear to be two separate things, but they affect each other in ways that we can’t even think of. Like I said earlier, let’s look at anxiety, the most common mental disorder among adolescents and adults. Anxiety co-occurs with physical symptoms such as chronic pain that includes headaches, backaches, chest pains, nausea, hyperventilation, insomnia, indigestion, the irritable bowel syndrome, etc. Then there are even more symptoms that develop from these. Insomnia, for an example, can cause fatigue, lack of concentration, impaired memory; continuous stress can also lead to diabetes and all these can affect our daily lives.
Overall health is significant while taking care of yourself or your loved ones and it is crucial to not be biased about whether the illness is physical or mental. Everyone has their own reasons for why all of this affects them, and how deep and lasting the impact has to be. I’ve come across several people who do not know what to say or what to do when a friend or a loved one has a certain mental health problem and trust me, it is not their fault. We as a community just don’t know and weren’t taught how exactly to deal with problems like these. While they may think what they are saying is helping, it might not help at all. We all need someone to talk to and not just simply say “try to be happy”, because by saying that you really aren’t helping. It is not necessary and can make the conversation even harder to have than it already is or prevent it from happening altogether.
So, how can you help?
Try to understand what the problem is because you are telling someone to do what they know they must, but don’t know how to. Be there for your loved ones, and become a reason they come out of this dingy cosmos soon. Simply saying “be happy” isn’t enough. Don’t just announce the solution, work towards it, together.
Tanya S (Author of the book – Roots of Chaos ) | Ireland