The Worst Thing About Mental Illness

I know what you’re expecting me to say. The illness itself. The not getting out of bed. The self neglect. The self harm. The pushing of people away. The black cloud that your brain now resembles. The thick smog that inhabits your lungs. The weight of the world on your shoulders. And often these are all the worst parts of having a mental illness. But sometimes the worst thing is people who don’t have a mental illness.

mental illness depression

They think they’re helping. They want to try and fix you. They offer a shoulder to cry on. An ear for listening. A heart to hold you in but unless they’ve had a mental illness themselves, they can’t ever offer what you really need and that’s no judgement.

See people who don’t have mental illnesses think they understand. We all have struggles right? Everyone has their down days, sure? We’ve all been depressed that one time. But what these statements really mean is that they don’t understand how you can not be OK. As if we don’t beat ourselves up with that every day.

See people without mental illness don’t see the things the way we do. A down day is staying in bed til 10. Or crying over a breakup or getting upset after a frustrating day at work but all of these things get better right? They don’t see the emptiness inside our souls. They don’t see that when everything on the outside is chipper – a great job, a gorgeous boyfriend, a group of brilliant mates – that the inside can still be hollow. They think that we can’t see all of the good. That somehow if we just opened our eyes and appreciated what we had, that we’d be able to pull ourselves out of this ‘funk’.

Then comes the patronising conversations.

‘I can’t believe someone as strong as you needs medication.’

‘Please don’t take that shit, it’ll make you think you’re really depressed when you can get yourself out of it.’

‘How can you be depressed? You’re always smiling!’

‘Do you think it’s depression or is it just grief?’

There should be a term for mental illness-splainers but until then that’ll do.

But if you’re lucky, you may meet someone or some people without a mental illness who do not judge. They don’t tell you everything will be ok. Or that they understand. Or that they’ll come round with a Dominos and a bottle of wine because that’ll fix it. They are just there. They listen. They don’t offer advice. They celebrate your small steps like brushing your teeth that day. They get that you don’t need fixing that you just need understanding. They check in on you in a way that makes you feel cared for, rather than a burden – a checklist they must complete to be good people themselves.

Sometimes you’ll meet people who also have a mental illness. Sometimes they’ll want to beat you at a game of ‘Who deserves to be mentally ill more’ which involves Top-Trumping rounds of, ‘I’ve had a severe trauma that triggered my mental illness – what’s ever gone wrong in your life?’ Or, ‘I ACTUALLY self harm, you just sometimes neglect a shower for a day or two.’ Don’t trick yourself into thinking that just because they are also ill that they’ll reserve judgement. Or that they’ll understand that occasionally there’s nothing ‘wrong’ apart from the chemical imbalance in your brain. Sometimes these people are the worst thing about mental illness.

And then fortunately you’ll meet people just like you. Who just get it. Who don’t ask ‘why’ you’re feeling depressed because they understand that often there is no why. They’ll join you in a pity party when you need it because they get that sometimes hitting rock bottom is the only way to bring yourself up again. And then they’ll also feel stronger just by being strong for you.

Whatever you do, whatever you’re going through, surround yourself with the people that are the best thing about mental illness. Once you have these people, show them this post about the things you wish they knew.

And for more information on mental health and to find further advice, visit the Better Help website.

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  1. July 25, 2017 / 11:32 am

    I had similar reactions when I started telling people that I was on antidepressants and it was so uncomfortable, I wanted to stick up for myself but at the time I just didn’t have the energy.. I know it was the right decision and that’s all that matters!

    I’m glad you’ve got some people around you who are supportive 🙂

  2. Lisa Bruno
    July 25, 2017 / 8:00 pm

    Work reactions can be tricky. When I had post natal (many moons ago now) my boss at the time suggested what I needed was a “few good walks in the park”.

    Having gone through difficult times a few years ago I finally went to my GP for help (not easy, right?) and decided to let my work know after that I was taking medication. Reaction was “oh you don’t want to go down that route, slippery slope!”.

    Even my husband who is absolutely lovely, “wasn’t keen” on me taking anything.

    Reactions like these can make you feel very alone.

    On the positive side, after a year on Sertraline I did feel loads better and actually don’t take anything now. Still have anxious days but Anxiety isn’t such a permanent feature.

    All the best to fellow sufferers xX

  3. Madeleine
    July 25, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    So much this. After my breakdown the number of people who ‘splained my illness to me. I was seeing a therapist and taking meds but these know-it-alls just knew more than my doctors or me about my brain. It made it worse. I was already exhausted from being sick, I didn’t need to spend my time dealing with these idiots.

  4. Em
    July 25, 2017 / 9:57 pm

    My partners own judgement of himself is the worst thing about his mental illness. I’ve suffered and am suffering myself, more anxiety than depression these days, but I’ve been there. And I have tried to explain to him that it’s okay not to be okay. And that it’s okay to accept that depression is not just something any of us can ‘snap out’ of. That sometimes we all need a helping hand. I have tried to tell him that medication isn’t for everyone but it is also something to try when your body and brain needs a rest. But he just can’t get past the stigma in himself. I have tried to find the help in our area for cognative help but they are just beyond useless. I think those of us with mental illness also need to learn to give ourselves a break as well on occasion, and I think not being able to do that can be the worst part of mental illness

  5. July 26, 2017 / 6:07 am

    This is so true. It’s so difficult when people don’t understand. It’s hard to be around people who just say the completely wrong thing or make you feel like you’re off your marbles!

    I have to remind myself that people often mean no harm and to try not to let it get to me, but it’s definitely hard xxxx

  6. Charlene McElhinney
    July 26, 2017 / 9:20 am

    I needed to read this today. Thank you, Vix…

  7. July 26, 2017 / 9:56 am

    So true… Between the people who just don’t get it and tell you to “snap out of it/ what do have to stress about/cheer up” and those who want to appear to be in a worth state than you… It’s already hard to suffer from a mental illness but it’s also hard to explain and to be understood so it’s really nice when someone just accepts you for who you are, flaws and issues.
    xx Gaby

  8. Maria
    July 26, 2017 / 11:48 am

    Most people around me didn’t get it when I spent three years in the deep end of depression and anxiety (hormone-induced depression). My father never understood how I felt (or how I didn’t feel, to put it better) and still to this date probably thinks I “pulled myself out of the funk” by cheering up or something, not thanks to medication.
    My boyfriend was the best support for me during those years, even if I could barely bring myself to be a normal loving human being with him.
    I’m so glad I’m 99% back to my normal self, but I always look over my shoulder scared that depression is looming over me.
    x Maria

  9. Emma Harrison
    July 26, 2017 / 12:34 pm

    Such a powerful post – thanks Vix x

    Emma |

  10. Sarah
    July 26, 2017 / 1:58 pm

    Such an amazingly written post. Everyone needs to read this! The comment I’ve had the most is the ‘but you’re always smiling’ one… The biggest thing for me is I try to cover up my depression in fear of having to talk about it as I’ve had a fair few moments in the past where no one has believed me or someone had made nasty comments, so I smile and try to get on with it but I suffer afterwards. Luckily my husband is the most supportive person and that makes it 10 times better.

  11. Ellis Woolley
    July 26, 2017 / 5:53 pm

    Very relatable post. When I was at my old job (I quit back in May) my boss would always say to me ‘what can I do, what do you want me to do to relieve your stress’ and I was like mate, shhh. It wasn’t as simple as that x x
    Ellis //

  12. July 26, 2017 / 10:02 pm

    This was such a beautiful post. It really resonated with me as I think I’ve experienced each type of person you mentioned. I feel really fortunate to have a husband who gets it, but sadly that’s because he battles mental illness too. I’ve also got a mom who definitely does not get it, though she will constantly tell me she does ?

    “There should be a term for mental illness-splainers but until then that’ll do.” True that!

    Thanks for tackling such a difficult subject with dignity and grace.

  13. Michelle
    August 1, 2017 / 6:24 am

    I can completely relate to all those scenarios! I’ve tried talking about my depression with my family and they simply don’t understand it. I smile on the outside but on the inside, I feel empty, unloved and like a walking corpse without anywhere to go. But when I talk about my problems they say to ‘just think positive’ like I haven’t done that already. It’s so annoying! I hope to one day be able to find someone who understands my mental illness. ♥