When we talk about mental health, people often shy away from the grim details, in fear of getting judged. Many realities of mental health are faced behind closed doors and only seen by those in close proximity of the person suffering. I can only speak of my experience with having a major depressive episode and I'm sure it’s nothing like people imagine. Depression is often romanticised in films, quotes and books when really there is nothing pretty about it, you’re seeing a person during one of their most vulnerable and excruciatingly painful moments of their life. Before I fell ill with depression, the thought of going a day without showering, eating, brushing my teeth, putting make up on and physically not being able to get out of bed seemed unimaginable to me. Then it hit me. I felt like I was stranded in thick, gooey mud trying to get to dry land. My feet simply wouldn't move, no amount of will or determination helped. I would see everyone on dry land, yelling, “Just lift one foot up and move forward”. The simplicity of what I had to do was what made it all the more agonising.
Every normal thing that a ‘healthy, functioning person’ was able to do was something I couldn’t bare the mere thought of. Showering would feel like a monumental task. After you go one day without, the next day and the day after that, don’t seem to faze you. I wouldn’t shower for 4-5 days at a time. I wouldn’t wash my hair for an even longer time than that. I never tell people that, because you get that look of absolute disgust and confusion as to why you can’t just pull yourself together for 10 minutes to wash yourself. But if I was “actually sick” and wasn’t physically able to, no one would question it. I’d be greeted with sympathy and light-hearted jokes. I would go a couple days without brushing my teeth. Which again is something utterly disgusting. I would wear the same clothes for days and days, no matter how many stains it got. I couldn’t find any energy to open my wardrobe and choose something else to wear. My only function was being able to sleep, day and night. I barely drank so that I wouldn’t have to get up to go to the toilet. I did the bare minimum required for me to survive, nothing more. When I would venture out of the house, it was in those dirty worn for days clothes, my hair was a mess, my eyes dark and puffy and my lips all cut up from the hours I’d spend picking them. Nothing in me cared, I wouldn’t even recognise people I knew, let alone stop to talk to anyone. I’d walk into the shop, walk slower than a turtle and space out. My body was there, going through the motions but I was nowhere to be seen. Then there were other times where my level of anxiety and paranoia ate me alive, that being anywhere in public drove me insane, literally and I’d run home and hide out in my room till my mind slowly stopped spinning.
There is absolutely no part of me that understands how depression took my ability to do such basic tasks. It's hard to grasp the despair one feels during depression and the agony of not being able to understand why you can't will your mind to do anything. I felt paralysed, like all my muscles were mush and my brain was far away on another planet. Depression doesn’t care and it stops you from caring about yourself and others. You don’t live during a depressive episode, you’re merely breathing to stay alive. Depression doesn’t just destroy your mind; it destroys your dignity, every last shred of it till you’re lying on the bathroom floor, barely wrapped in a towel sobbing in frustration and mental agony because you can’t will any of your limbs to move and get in the bath. That is what depression looks like, it’s not pretty and it sure as hell isn’t easy to stand and watch someone struggle their way through it.
I am sick. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t ask for this. I didn't enjoy any part of this illness. That’s the thing people can’t seem to grasp, that we are sick. When you break your leg, the bone is in two pieces and the function of your leg no longer serves its purpose, until it is rested and healed. When the brain becomes ill, it too, is like a bone shattered in two; it no longer functions the way it’s supposed to. And, it too, needs rest until it can heal. Sometimes the broken leg never mends itself 100% and we may have to do exercises and take painkillers for months afterwards. The brain is very much the same. Sometimes it will never go back to the way it was before the trauma hit and medication and therapy is needed for months, even years afterwards. We don’t call a person weak for breaking his or her leg, so why is it acceptable to say that about someone who’s mentally ill. It’s one illness that can’t be compared to the other. Pain is pain, whether it’s physical or mental. So before saying something to a mentally ill person, imagine their illness as a broken bone and your perspective might just change.
Hey there, I'm Jasmine, your average 23 year old working in childcare and living in England. Maybe Tomorrow follows my journey living with mental health issues and multiple chronic health conditions, all whilst trying to have some fun along the way.
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