Today my mother told me that I’m way too focused on being sad all the time and if I put half as much effort into being happy, I would just be happy.
‘How do I do that?’ I asked her.
‘I don’t know. You just be happy. It’s easy.’ She said.
I try not to fault her too much because she really doesn’t understand mental health issues whatsoever. She’s never dealt with them so she doesn’t know that they’re very real and very difficult to overcome. And, if you’ve never dealt with them before, I can understand why it would be hard to grasp the complexities of it.
The thing is, though, it’s not as simple as she makes it out to be.
I can’t just think happy thoughts and become happy.
I can’t just be happy.
I’m not trying to be miserable. I’m not trying to be sad. I’m not trying to feel anxious. I’m not going out of my way to make any of this my reality. And I think when people stereotype it as a choice, that’s what makes it harder for people to talk about their mental health.
I want to laugh because something’s funny, not because I feel a social obligation too based on the people that I am around. I want to smile without having to think about it, without having to force it, because of the people that I am around. I want to just ‘be happy’ as she says.
But, if I don’t face these issues that I have, these internal struggles that plague my mind, I fear that they’ll plague me for the rest of my life. If I just grin and pretend they’re not there, they’re never going to go away. They’ll be there… probably forever.
Mental illness is a difficult subject for people to talk about. If someone breaks their leg, people can see it. They can see the physical injury and understand that person must be in pain because of said injury and they provide well wishes, support and hope to said person with broken leg that will invariably help them with their recovery. But, you can’t see an anxious mind. You can’t see a depressed soul. You can’t see a distraught heart. And if you’ve never felt something that you can’t see, this is, I think, where people struggle with helping those who suffer from mental illness.
You’d never tell someone to ‘just walk it off’ if they had a broken leg. So why are so many people so quick to say ‘Just be happy’ to someone who struggles with anxiety, or depression or bi-polar, or any of the other mental illnesses. Because they can’t see it, so they don’t understand it.
Talking helps. Sometimes it really can. If you feel safe and are able to open up to someone, sometimes talking can really benefit your situation. There are people who, though they’ve never been through it, do all that they can to try to understand.
But then there are people who won’t ever understand. Because this is the kind of thing that, unless you go through it yourself, is difficult to grasp.
To everyone in this world suffering in silence, I’m with you. I understand. To everyone being told to ‘just walk it off’ or ‘just be happy’, I know that life doesn’t work that way. Please, take the proper time and resources that you need to find yourself healing. Because, just like a broken leg, you need time to cope and to heal.
I’m wishing you peace, and for family/friends that understand. But, even if they don’t, I’m wishing you time to cope, to deal and to heal. Because everyone needs that – whether your hurt is physical (and visible) or not.