I am probably not alone in spending a significant proportion of my time reading about mental health – blogs, articles, websites, books etc. I feel that it’s an important part of recovery to have an understanding of your illness, I also find it helpful to read other people’s perspectives. Often, I will read something in a blog and it is so true that it could have been written about myself.
I’m sure that some of you will have heard of The Blurt Foundation who aim to increase awareness and understanding of depression, to help people help themselves in recovery and to challenge stigma.
Blurt are excellent, to put it simply.
One of the things Blurt do is to send a weekly email to their subscribers which offers a message of hope and support in what we may be feeling or struggling with. Generally, these emails are spot on in balancing empathy and understanding with a positivity that things will actually be ok. And they almost always make me smile and feel a little bit better about myself, or about the day ahead.
Today’s email was on the subject of bravery; this email was supportive and encouraging, as always, but today I felt quite overwhelmed by the overriding message, which was that battling a mental illness is nothing short of heroic.
I have read, and re-read the email and, quite honestly, it moves me to tears. I struggle to read that I am brave and a soldier, however true it may be, because I don’t feel brave.
I feel that I have failed.
I feel that I should be better, that I should be able to cope, that life should be easier… and a whole reservoir of other shoulds. I don’t feel that I have saved my life by keeping going, by fighting through each day. I feel that I have lost my life to this illness, even though I am quite clearly still here. There’s living (being alive) and then there’s living (having a full and meaningful life).
Time slips away from me as I manage day to day. I go in a shop and see Easter eggs on display, yet we’ve only just had last Easter, haven’t we? How can so much time have passed when I have done so little? How can surviving, which is so hard, be the driving factor behind living?
To fully accept the enormity of what I am dealing with, what I have been living with for so many years and to read that someone understands and applauds it is monumental.
But, brave, heroic?
I don’t believe it. I can’t believe it, however much I want to.
Because depression tells me differently, as Blurt so accurately point out.
Email transcript (edited)
Being floored by mental ill health is nothing short of devastating. There are no words, not really, to properly convey how frightening, destructive and decaying mental ill health can be.
It takes grit to keep showing up, to keep trying again and again. To battle through the pain, the frustration, the numbness and the uncharted territory that mental ill health brings – after all, we’re not even taught what it is at school, never mind how to handle it.
It’s quite probable that you have even saved a life – yours.
Because let’s not make any bones about it, mental ill health can take lives.
And for those of us who feel ready to talk about our experiences and to tackle the societal stigma which doesn’t seem to be going away, anytime soon, we’ll never truly understand the impact that talking about mental ill health might have on someone who’s listening. Someone who’s grateful that you’re saying the words, they struggle to find. Grateful for the knowing nod’ that they’re not at all alone. That’s gallantry, right there.
We don’t feel brave though, do we?
We feel as though we’re lacking in some way.
Lacking in support? Probably. Sadly.
Lacking character? Not on your nelly.
When those cruel thoughts tell you that you’re not brave, re-read this email over and over and over again because there’s so much evidence here to the contrary. You might be scared, you might feel wary, you might well be resting, but you’re a soldier. There’s absolutely no doubt about that.