‘You should eat better’, ‘Are you drinking enough?’ and the dreaded ‘Have you thought of taking a nice, long walk?’ are phrases that sufferers of mental illness hear over and over… and over again.
Admittedly, some of these ‘suggestions’ come from a good place, from people who want to understand, or who at least want to try to.
But sadly, these same comments also leave the mouths of people who’d rather be seen as ignorant than to even begin to comprehend that there could possibly be an illness that isn’t physical.
So let’s just get a few things straight.
Mental illness, although invisible, is very, very real. Mental illness can lead to physical effects – headaches, fatigue, panic attacks, self-harm and sadly, even suicide.
So although you may not be able to point at someone and say: ‘They are struggling with mental health’, like you would a person suffering with a cold, it is very, very much real.
Sure, eating a salad might make us feel better that day. Like it would anyone.
You’re eating a meal that isn’t going to make you feel bloated, slobbish, or that little bit guilty for eating badly.
But that’s not to say you’re not going to have a panic attack later at the thought of leaving the house, or that your urge to self-harm is going to be any lesser because you feel as though your mental illness is controlling you.
And yes, water is nice – not as nice as an iced coffee, I must admit – but drinking more isn’t the answer to defeating mental illness.
Yes, eating better and drinking more are suggestions on maintaining your mental health – but they’re certainly not the answer for when you’ve been diagnosed with a mood disorder that means you rely on medication to keep you stable.
Although, it is vital to drink more than enough when you are on medication, FYI.
While the trees are lovely and the air feels nice against our faces, dry from the tears that have fallen from our depression – it’s not a miracle cure.
A pick-me-up, sure. But if a sufferer feels that the only way to give them some stability and to block out the bad thoughts is to take medication, then there’s nothing wrong with that.
I personally have never felt better than when taking my little cocktail of Lithium and Chlorpromazine, this is the first time I’ve felt ‘stable’ and in control in a long time.
And I wouldn’t swap it for all the bloody trees in the world.
This article is most certainly not to shun these suggestions, but more so to keep them as that – suggestions.
You wouldn’t tell someone with a physical illness to ‘Go for a run’, you’d give them proper medical attention and treat them as more than someone who’s ‘feeling sorry for themselves’. So why can’t the same be done for those suffering with a mental illness?
This Mental Health Day, I am asking all friends and loved ones of those with a mental illness to make more of an effort.
To stop using these minor suggestions as a cure.
To be understanding of someone who is taking medication to maintain their mental illness.
To accept that mental illnesses are just as real as any other physical illness, that any sufferer of would be pissed off if told ‘Jog it off’ when looking for help.
Words by Hattie Gladwell