A couple of thoughts on this. I realize that those who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction are truly struggling with mental health. This isn’t meant to belittle them or their experiences. In the same way, I realize that if someone who struggles with mental health harms themselves (such as committing suicide), the medical practitioners will also rush to help save them.
This post is to raise awareness of mental health issues. Of mental illness. Even more, to help remove the stigma of such issues.
To that end, stop saying right now, “It’s ‘just’ depression.” No such thing as “just.” Yep, everyone has down days. Some people have a number of them. Some people have chemical imbalances. Some people have worse depression than others. However, once again, there is no such thing as “just.” There is nothing to “just” get over. Don’t minimize yours or anyone else’s depression. Life is hard enough without having to deal with other people’s (and sometimes our own) judgment.
Stop saying right now, “Everyone is a little bipolar.” Nope. And again, that minimizes the experiences of those (like me) who have a medical diagnosis and take medication to level out the huge and at times crippling mood swings.
Also stop saying, “You can’t be bipolar, because I know so-and-so, and they were REALLY crazy.” Again, that minimizes the person. Everyone is different. And I can tell you from my own experience that you may not know everything about me. There have been things I’ve kept hidden for many years, including manic episodes — and sometimes that fear of judgment keeps me from talking about it still.
As noted in the poem above, sometimes it’s easy to believe there is no help out there, that no one cares. When I first wrote this, I had written the last line as “and no one gives a shit.” As a friend reminded me, that’s not true. I have plenty of people who care. Chances are, most people who struggle with mental health issues have plenty of people who care. But sometimes it’s hard to remember that, to feel that. Especially when we have great ways to project okay-ness.
Check in. Ask those people how they are. And don’t always accept the standard, “I’m fine.” Be there. Find out what their diagnosis means for them, what it looks like. Ask them if it’s okay to talk about it with them. Ask them to educate you.
Be their beating heart.