Happy Monday, everyone!
People often say and hear the phrase ‘think before you speak,’ and I believe it has become, like so many other things, something that washes over us more often than not, if only due to the regularity with which it’s used. But it is very easy to say the wrong thing at the wrong time because we are all human, and sometimes we just say things. That’s okay. As fellow humans, we should all understand. So, I think maybe what I really mean when I say ‘think before you speak’ should actually be something more like, ‘think before you pick a line of argument.’ But that isn’t very catchy, is it?
One thing that I’ve come across over the past few years is the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. Obviously, what’s true for me may very well not be true for others – ‘same hell, just different devils,’ right? – but it is still an issue.
A lot of the time, when people ask me how I’m doing and I answer truthfully, they have a wonderful tendency to reply with something like, “Yeah, I get you, sometimes I feel sad, too.” When people say this they are generally referring to normal emotional responses to certain situations: getting angry when riled up; getting upset after falling out with a friend; getting stressed over work or school commitments.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am in no way saying that these emotions are invalid – all I’m saying is that they’re not the same.
It would appear that a lot of people really, genuinely do not understand what mental illness actually is. It’s not all about being overworked to exhaustion or stressed to the point of tears. Questioning the world and crying because you can’t always keep on top of the daily grind is, generally, a somewhat normal reaction to what’s going on. It’s not a nice reaction, but it’s normal.
When I talk about my experiences, what I’m referring to are depressive episodes that can appear seemingly out of nowhere. Yes, there have been a bunch of times when I’ve had a lot of external factors negatively influencing my mood levels. But there have also been times when I have found myself in the most wonderful and supportive environments imaginable, and still been woefully unable to prevent the dark swirling clouds within my brain from spilling over the edge. The external factors have an influence, but it’s my mind that creates the biggest issues, and it’s able to do that all on its own.
As I just said, people easily say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and although some passing comments can be hurtful, it’s the longer conversations with those who don’t understand that can cause real friction. When someone just stands there and tells you how much you need to pull yourself together, and how you’ll never achieve anything until you do so, it feels horrendously undermining and extremely isolating. But I tend to just stay silent because I’m one of those people who cries when they get angry, so I’m generally too busy doing that to say anything (this is why I’m a writer… and sometimes I cry whilst doing that, as well).
So, I guess all I’m trying to say is, when someone speaks to you about their mental health, try to think before you pick a line of argument. You may initially believe that it sounds more dramatic than it is, that it’s just the same as ‘being sad sometimes,’ or they just need to ‘pull it together.’ But if you take some time to think before you start along your line of argument, perhaps take some time to listen first, then your opinion might change, and perhaps you’ll avoid causing pain by poking at a wound you didn’t even know was there.