I have a mental illness — and I am exhausted of it

It is not like the movies. It is ugly and pretty fucking bad.

Laura Connesson @ Unplash (Free image)

I am a firm believer in spread information using scientific paths — it tend to not spread fake news and is a solid ground. However I want here to simply rant about something very personal — that I am not quite sure everyone who suffers from mental illness go through — the fact that it is exhaustive to live with it.

For those who don’t know I have been diagnosed with depression and some types of anxiety disorders; I probably have those two since forever but it only became official when I had my first panic attack at age 13. It was a hard time for my family and my body and mind just couldn’t go through it. When my mother took me to the hospital because we all thought I had asthma we discovered my enemy was in my brain and not in my lungs. It was hard, really. Imagine a 13 years old girl hearing a doctor saying she had a psychological problem and she has to do therapy. Nowadays, after struggle for seven years, I know therapy is not for “crazy” people, it is for everybody and is a wonderful thing to do for your well being; but at 13 I didn’t knew that. What would my friends, classmates think when they discovered I was going to therapy? They would call me crazy, weirdo and all those types of thing. Being an introverted and awkward kid it was hard for me to make friends and I didn’t want to lose those few I had. So I only went for three sessions before I stopped. It is worth point that my family didn’t help me either. My parents never said anything to my face, for which I am forever thankful, but I heard their conversations. I heard my mother talking in the phone with God knows who about how her child was “going crazy”. It is still a thing that won’t ever leave the front of my mind.

After six years ignoring my mental health and all my traumas, my brain was on red flag. Around this time I was in college, going pretty badly in everything; my academic life was a disaster, I was heartbroken for a girl who I never had the guts to tell I liked, I had no job or money, and all the traumas I spend my whole life ignoring were back in my conscious mind haunting me every hour of the day. I reached the break point. Then I decided to seek treatment, I started taking medication, started (again) doing therapy and all kinds of things that would help. Surprisingly all this was the “easy” part, which tells a lot about the other part. When I took my first pill of antidepressants it was hard; I was like a lot of people who think antidepressants are dangerous drugs, that I would become an addicted, that it would change who I was. And you can see how broke I was because I had all these fears, that were huge, but still I chose to take the medication because I was desperate for being ok again (even though I don’t know what “ok” even means). In my altered mental status I thought my family and my closest friends would support me, because they would see how broke I was and they would understand. It wasn’t quite like that…

Probably it was innocence of me to think everyone would understand my situation, I should have stick with that 13 years old little girl who ran away from therapy. But I don’t know, I am trying not to judge me. If I am being honest I was afraid of the opinions people would have about my situation, but I needed support from the people I love the most. So it took me one day to tell the first person, two weeks to tell the second and about one month to tell my mother. After that I slowly started telling everybody about my condition.

My cousin, the first person I told, was by far the funniest reaction; he simply told me “well this is fucked up”. He didn’t treat me different after that. The second person I told was one of my closest friends, she was very supportive. My mother, well… she took it all ok, and did the same thing she did all those years ago. She told people I was crazy. I don’t really know what words she used, but from the looks I received from people I didn’t even remember the name I guess it was not nice words. And the thing I learned after that was that you can use all the best words you know, you can incorporated a doctor from Grey’s Anatomy and explain every little thing the best way possible, most of the people will continue to think what they want. And, I learned that too, that it consists in all types of bias and assumptions.

So, it hurt. It hurt pretty badly hearing from some friends that I had become an addicted because I was taking antidepressants. It hurt a lot knowing my friend thought I was fucking crazy and would broke off with her girlfriend if she became like me after started taking antidepressants. It hurt when they called me suicidal. It hurt me when they treat me like I was made of glass and incapable of taking decisions about my life. It hurt when I had a breakdown at my mother’s birthday and everyone looked at me like I was losing my mind. It hurt me look at the mirror and not knowing what had happened with my life. To this day few of my friends won’t talk about the subject “my mental illness”, it is like a white elephant in the room. And, this too, hurts. Because I have accepted that even if I am not defined by my depression or my anxiety, I have to live with them and they are part of my life now. And I want people to not ignore it. To look at it, because it is ugly, I know, but it is real; and it is not only a part of me, it is a part of a lot of people.

Although it did hurt a lot when it was happening with me I have to admit it hurt more when I saw it happened with others friends. The thing is: I know my limit, but I don’t know their limits. The trick thing with depression is that it often leads to suicide, and it is all too fragile when you have it bad. So it is hard to support a friend in these conditions, when you don’t even know how to support yourself because everything you say sounds hypocrite because you too want to end your life. There is no manual on how to handle situations like that, and I didn’t figurate one yet. When I think about my own life it all seems too insignificant. Hopeless. Mediocre. I wouldn’t mind dying today but I don’t want it to happen to my friends or my family. But I am not going to kill myself but it feels like people are going to do it to me. Everybody is going to drive me crazy because I can not be normal.

“How many times have people used a pen or a paintbrush because they couldn’t pull the trigger?” — Virginia Woolf

Engineer student, aspiring writer and activist. My life is a mess. Contact: alessandrafigueiredo@outlook.com | I write in English and/or Portuguese.

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