When we catch the flu, we make plans to grab some medication or make an appointment to the doctor’s and we are confident that it will pass and we will be as good as new. When we develop mental illness, the idea of recovery and a destination of happiness seems so much further away a lot less possible.
Stage 1: Deterioration
When developing a mental illness, there isn’t always necessarily a cause. Mental illness does not discriminate, it pays no attention to your bank balance or your attractiveness or your status. When developing mental illness, it creeps up on you slowly, we don’t wake up one day mentally ill – it is a process. A very long, draining and exhausting process. It can happen to anyone in the world, even you – that is exactly why I believe everyone should be educated on it and what pushed me to begin this blog in the first place.
It can start when you least expect it, it can start quietly at first but we will begin to notice signs. We may feel a little more tired than usual, we may notice a change in our eating habits, our motivation could have decreased or we might have this feeling of sadness we just cannot shake. It takes time to notice a mental illness because as humans we constantly make excuses for the feelings we may be feeling. I’m not eating much because of stress from work, I’m unmotivated because i’m not sleeping enough, I’m not sleeping enough because my bed is old – we will make all the excuses in the world before we realise we are actually ill.
Stage 2: Questioning
Nobody notices they’re feeling a little sadder than usual and immediately makes an appointment with a therapist. There is always a way to blame how we feel on something else. We could blame other people for making us sad, turn our anger on the world for making us feel this way or if you’re like me you will just blame yourself for being born that way. For a long time i believed i would never be happy because it is just not meant to be for me, it never crossed my mind that I had a mental illness. There was always something to blame. But, it gets to a point where you can’t go on ignoring it anymore and you start to question how you’re feeling – surely this isn’t normal, why am I feeling like this?
Mental illness has a long time to develop before the average person takes action, in fact it is highly likely that action is only taken when it has gone too far. I ignored my mental illness for too long and it worsened to the point of a disorder, if only I got the help i needed from the beginning things would have been a lot easier – it’s never too early to seek help and treat mental health. By now, after ignoring the signs for a good while, our mental health has conjured up a constant feeling of sadness, anxiety and stress and we could have changed to the point of those around us are beginning to notice, depending on how well we can hide it or how often we even see our loved ones. At this point, it’s a case of I don’t know what is wrong with it but I need it to change.
Stage 3: Action
Once we’ve begun to notice a change in our lives or our habits, we may try and change these. We resort straight to the cause-and-effect trail of thought and believe that something we have done differently in our living habits has lead us to feel this way. We will try and look for a reasoning in everything and frantically do everything we can to change it, to find ourselves again.
We blame our jobs, where we live and the people around us for how we feel We cannot accept that it’s something wrong with out minds, we believe something has caused this and there is a quick way to fix it. There isn’t. I have moved houses, moved countries and tried to change every aspect of my life to ‘fix’ it without facing the fact that what is wrong is in my mind and i could change my entire life completely and the problem will still be there. Action is an incredibly hard stage to face because there seems to be now correct way to deal with it. Some may seek professional advice and others who have lost faith in the health system will resort to self-medication. The actions taken to treat mental illness are vital and can determine the chance of recovery.
Stage 4: Doubt
Every journey is different. But chances are, we do try and change things to find ourselves again and to make ourselves happy, whatever and however that may be. We try to get back to where we were before all of this started but once none of those actions have any effect, we begin to doubt ourselves completely. This is where the loneliness kicks in.
We begin to feel like the only person in the world who feels this way. We’ve tried to enjoy ourselves doing the things we normally do, forcing ourselves into social situations we once enjoyed, but we don’t enjoy them anymore and we don’t know why. All we know is, we have tried. When nothing works that we try, we begin to doubt whether it’s fixable.
Stage 5: Destruction
A person can only try for so long to get themselves back on track. When fighting with your own thoughts every single day, everything is 1000x more difficult. We have tried to make ourselves feel better with the usual pick-me-ups when we’re feeling a little bit down but we cannot shake this feeling of sitting in a group of close friends knowing you should be happy and enjoying yourself but all you can think about is how shit your life is and how much you want it all to just stop.
If you’re loved ones haven’t noticed much yet this is when the real realisation starts to kick in. It’s in human nature to give up on something when we see no results, so when we have been trying for so long to make ourselves happy it’s only normal for us to give up and just accept the sadness. Self-destructive behaviours come into action here, we will slowly just lose interest in our life. It takes so much to keep your life afloat, but when you don’t care about anything it becomes so easy to watch it fall apart.
Everyone reacts differently to this stage, whether we go into destructive patterns of substance abuse or resort to our shells and hide away from the world to shut everything out – all we know is we’re feeling sad and we don’t know why, we’ve tried everything and nothing has worked so we guess it’s unfixable now and just try learn to live with it.
Stage 6: Help
The last stage. The stage we begin to realise that we need help and there may be something inside us that needs medical attention. This stage usually comes from some form of consequence, our lives could be falling apart or we may be considering suicide and that’s when it kicks in. This is when we finally question our mental health. So much time has passed, so much has happened and so much destruction has taken place across our lives and in our minds before we reach this point.
There is so much to deal with. Some may give up because it’s all gotten too much, some may reach out or help and be denied, it is no indication of the strength of a person based on how they handle this. We have grew up in a society and an education system where they tell you to eat your 5-a-day at least 30 times in one month of lessons but not once through your entire education will someone sit down with you and explain to you that mental illnesses are real and how to stop them.
How we get help is where we are usually let down. By this point, stress is high from our destructive behaviours and the neglecting of our responsibilities and productivity. By now, suicide is an option and can begin to cement itself in our brain as the only way out. There is only so much a human can handle. When life just cannot get better and we have tried everything, suicidal thoughts get louder and louder and much harder to ignore.
This is usually the stage where we probably will welcome help, we will welcome anything to just make it all better. By now, people around you will have almost certainly noticed the change. People may have asked you if you’re okay or expressed worry about your well-being. It takes every inch of strength you have in your body to say ‘no, i’m not okay’.
By this point, nothing makes sense. I only wish people realised how it feels to be so consumed by sadness and dark thoughts that you don’t even feel like you’re part of this world, the only way it can really be described is a numb feeling as though you’re a ghost on the planet. If only people understood, they would realise how saying things like ‘talk to someone’ and ‘get help’ falls on completely deaf ears.
It’s not a case of making people aware that mental illness is real anymore, we know it is. We know we need to get help and talk to someone. But when we talk to someone we’re met with an uncomfortable silence and when we try to find help it seems impossible. Nobody knows what to do or say, nobody even likes hearing or speaking the word ‘suicide’ but we do need to say it because it happens, a lot more than most are aware of.
It is so hard to explain in words how depression makes you feel inside but there are signs we give off throughout our deterioration that we need to look out for in others. In our own heads, our judgement is so clouded and we cannot see things quite like how others see it, especially when suicidal. You genuinely believe that talking to someone won’t help and most of the time it probably won’t – whether it’s loneliness, debt, past trauma or anything else nothing is ever that bad where it can’t be fixed. Nothing is unfixable.
You’ll never understand how much of an impact just sitting down with someone and showing you care can feel to someone who’s own mind has convinced them that everyone is against them. Leave the advice and the science up to the professionals and just be there for people, be nice to every single person you meet.
Start saying the word suicide because avoiding these conversations will not make go away, it will make it worse. Stop expecting your friends to just pop in whenever they feel sad because they won’t always, stop telling people to talk to someone if they feel down. Make an effort with people you know are in a bad place, it can take a few minutes of your day and it can have more than an impact than you’ll ever know.