I woke up this morning to my Twitter-fam heatedly discussing how somebody had tried to invalidate mental illnesses and their struggles against them. My first thought to this was, ‘Are you even for real?’ because you can never ever judge a person or their struggles unless you have either stuck by them through it or actually lived that struggle in their shoes. And unless you’ve done so, I don’t think any of us is at the liberty to go around telling people that their struggle is just ‘all in their heads’. It’s called being an absolute jerk, look it up!
I’m saying this because I’ve seen my friends battle depression. I’ve seen people who are still struggling with their inner battles and I hate it because there is nothing I can do to help except hear them out and be there for them, whether they turn to me for help or not. You know what our problem is? We’ve all romanticized mental illnesses to the point where anything that doesn’t fit our personal definition of mental illness seems like a lie. But that is so problematic and I wish we took efforts to understand better what our loved ones go through.
Another one of our biggest mistakes is not looking at mental illnesses the same way that we’d look at any other kind of ailment. Everybody thinks that our mind is this powerful tool that can never, ever get tired. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand how we can assume that when even the strongest person on the planet needs to take a break every now and then to make sure they don’t wear themselves out. Mental illnesses and mental exhaustion are very, very real things and it’s about damn time that we normalized talking about them.
It just seems very unfair to invalidate the kind of effort a person puts into going about their day in spite of whatever internal struggle they’re going through. If you still don’t see the big deal about this, let me ask you something. Say, you’ve been recovering from an accident and it hasn’t exactly been a smooth way back. If somebody tells you right then and there when you’re struggling to get back to your routine, that ‘it’s all in your head’, how would you react? I’ll rephrase this: just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
We live in a time where all information is just a few taps and clicks away. Those of us who do have the privilege of access to information have no excuse to say that we don’t ‘understand’ what it means when a person is struggling with themself. This is a sincere request to everybody out there: please read up and get educated. Try to understand as much as possible because someday, Heaven forbid, when you realize that your efforts to reach out to them were negligible, you can’t ever go back from that. It’s the worst kind of guilt ever.
So, the next time you’re about to tell someone that it’s all ‘in their head’, just stop yourself. Just stop. Your struggle isn’t their struggle and just because you’re not living it or because you don’t have a front-row seat to it, doesn’t mean that what they’re going through is just a cry for attention. It’s a cry for help, and if you find yourself unable to help, do everybody a favour and direct them to somebody who can help. But don’t ever compare struggles because everyone has been given a different kind of burden to bear in life.
And while it’s so much easier to navigate through life when you have somebody who can help you through your struggle and you can do the same for them, it’s not and never will be the same thing as being in their shoes. If you’re reading this, please reach out to the people in your life and let them know that you’re here for them. If you don’t understand their struggle, try to read up and get to know about it. But never, at any cost, make them feel like it is their duty to educate you about these things.
That one’s completely on you. Get woke, people! It’s 2020. There’s no place for ignorance here.
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