If you are reading this thinking physical injuries and mental illnesses are completely unrelated things, I don’t agree. Hear me out.
Lets say you were out with your mates and accidentally fell off the wall you were attempting to tight-rope on, not the best of choices because now your leg is in 3 parts and your arm is upside down. Everyone wants to sign your cast, which you'll plead with them to not put rude things on, which turns out to be pointless, and you must rest up. Possibly, you’ll be using crutches and casts for a few months whilst you get better.
From a mental illness point of view, I have depression. I have it because of a chemical imbalance in my brain. This means I am like super low on serotonin and dopamine, they’re basically the happy chemicals. Whilst I may not look ‘ill’, it is a little more difficult for me to put myself out there sometimes when my mind is willing me to do more things than I can.
On the surface, physical injuries and mental illnesses look different. Physical injuries are often visible from the outside, it perhaps seems more real because you can see it.
The invisibility of mental illness is what makes it so hard to comprehend for people that haven’t experienced it; particularly when any physical side effects such as self-harming may be hidden from people in everyday life. I believe that it is the reason why people can be so open to talk about it, and yet incredibly reluctant incase of rejection or fear of being belittled.
Your broken bones. My mental illness. They both render us from doing things. Maybe you need someone to help you in doing jobs you need both arms to do; things like cooking or you might need help showering. I need help just like you. Sometimes, I need people to keep me awake or distract me from the bad thoughts Maybe you need painkillers or medicine because your bones are knackered. I have medicine also to balance out my chemicals, reduce my anxiety and close up the generally empty voids in me brain.
When someone comes out that they have a mental illness, they can be greeted with words such as, ‘just stop worrying’, ‘be a little stronger’, ‘people are going through worse than you’.
More often than not, a mentally ill person goes through stages of telling these things to themselves, in hopes it will make them better, but it can become destructive if they don’t reach the ‘wellness’ they aspire to be. Even if you cannot empathise, it is okay. Just a simple, ‘what you’re going through is awful, how can I help you?’ can be enough to help people be more comfortable in talking to you. Offering to go to therapy or counselling is another great way to help support them.
Both injuries and illnesses can sometimes go on for years. Mental illness in my experience, has affected all aspects of my life including my relationships with family, friends, education and work. I try to stop it impacting negatively but it appears impossible on the surface. If you feel the same as me, I urge you to get help and begin recovery. And to the people that want to help but don’t know how, it is always okay to say you don’t understand something that a person is going through, but through acknowledgement and learning, you can become an important part of a persons recovery journey.
When we start treating all illnesses with equal humanity, sympathy, care and caution, we can begin to remove the stigma that comes with it.
Written by Meescha Bhamra