Ask almost anyone with mental health issues what question they loathe the most, and I can guarantee you it will be “why don’t you just feel better?” It is asked like we have any choice in the matter. There are memes all over the internet (thank you Tumblr) challenging it. The most popular tactic is to compare mental illness to other illnesses. Would you tell a cancer patient to “just feel better?” I would hazard a guess and say no, you would not.
I get it. Mental illness is hard to wrap your head around. The doctors usually cannot point to some tumor or tear and tell you what is wrong. They can just figure out the symptoms and tell you how best to deal with them. “Skills and pills” as they tell us, hoping for our mental and physical health that we can do more with the former so we do not need so much of the latter. Meanwhile our loved ones are left wondering how to deal with it, and everyone else usually does not even try, even if they have a loved one dealing with a mental health issue. Depressives and anxiety sufferers are just trying to get out of work and dealing with life as far as most folks can tell.
Yes, I have no problem saying most folks, because if it was not most folks, we would not have the problem getting that narrative out of entertainment and politics. We would have better funding and organization for mental health issues. We would get time to heal and not have to work while we learn how to live with ourselves without jumping through hoop after flaming hoop to appease mid level bureaucrats and the politicians they answer to.
Folks will actually tell you to think positive, which is a great coping mechanism, but is not a cure all. It is not a cure though. It is just a way to get through a moment, and maybe help set up for less bad moments. If you are depressive the whole problem is having difficulty thinking positive. Again, to use a physical example, you would not tell a person in a wheel chair to just go out and have a good jog. Sure, you can say wheel yourself around a block or two, and that will help with overall physical health that can become an issue when you are wheel chair bound, but exercise often does not do anything for not having use of your legs, and in the cases that it does, there is a whole lot more to it.
I also get that it is scary. You cannot see what is in my head, so if it is broken, or even just a little off, what might I do? Will I hurt myself? Will I hurt you? Will I just act weird in a way that is embarrassing for you? You cannot understand us, because you do not think like us, because, yes it is in our heads.
It is in our heads when missing the bus feels like a death in the family. It is in our heads when we close our eyes hoping to not open them in the morning. It is in our head when we hear things that are not really there. It is in our head when we are arguing with ourselves as to whether or not it is all in our head, when we feel like there is no way out or no way up. It is in our head and there is no escape for us, like there is for you.
There are no easy answers. We are not of one mind in our problems, that is the problem. All we can ask is you treat us with the kindness and care you would any other sick person. Be patient. When you see someone posting something dismissive of the mentally ill, point out that they are being cruel. Whatever you do, don’t make us the butt of your jokes. We already think pretty poorly of ourselves, we really don’t need your help in that regard. Many of us know it is hard for other folks to deal with us, and those who don’t know, can’t. We just ask you not make it even harder for us.