Funny, You Don’t Look like You Have Mental Health Issues.
The other day, during my usual morning sip and scroll, I came across a post from an acquaintance on Facebook who wrote a post talking about his anxiety.
In the post, he was brave enough to open up, explaining how his anxiety has affected his life and the relationships around him. I commented on the post, which soon prompted an inbox response from the individual. Somewhere in the conversation, he said to me, “Looking at your photos, it doesn’t look like you deal with anxiety at all.”
That’s the great thing about the internet, isn’t it? We can hide behind happy posts and random photos that only portray that snapshot in time. But what about the rest of our lives?
At first, I wasn’t sure how to take that comment. It was innocent and inquisitive, but a piece of me felt as though it was kind of an insult. While I am not quiet about my mental health issues, I also do not scream them from the rooftop either. We all have our crosses to bear, and my issues are mine.
Lately it has been worse for me. Between some life events and some serious health issues, my mental strength hasn’t been as strong as usual. Most people see a change in my behavior, but never ask if things are okay. Most wouldn’t care even If I were to explain everything what was going on with me, and sadly, some may even use it against me at some point.
They don’t understand how debilitating life can be, especially for someone who suffers from mental illness. Every day is a fight to try and find things to be grateful for, only to have one subconscious thought peek its way in and spoil the party. Funny, I don’t remember inviting him.
That’s what it comes down to: the conscious vs. the subconscious, and our continued struggle to remain in the present moment vs. the desire to spiral in our own self-pity.
So, what does it look like to have a mental health issue? Unfortunately, it is not an illness we see, and therefore, we do not discuss. That is something that always felt odd to me. We easily discuss if we have heart issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., all of which are unseen, but mental illness is still taboo.
It is looked upon as a weakness, like we can’t get our shit together, when that can’t be any further from the truth. Do any of us really have our shit together? For me, my depression is hereditary, but my anxiety has been ingrained in my self-consciousness as a coping mechanism for the many traumatic events which have happened to me during my lifetime.
Having both is a prison, and every day I make it through without falling into a deep hole is a victory. So no, I don’t have pictures of me crying myself to sleep at night or staring blindly at my phone with hopes of escaping my mind. I just have the ones where I am enjoying my life. Because those moments are precious and few when you suffer 24/7, so those are the ones I want to remember.
I can bet that most people who suffer from mental illness do the same thing. Most people don’t have the pictures capturing the moments they feel weak, helpless, or alone. They don’t have a T-shirt that says, “Please Be Patient While I Work Through My Mental Breakdown.” They suffer in silence, and they overcome, in silence.
As a society, we are getting better at discussing mental illness, but we are not there yet. There is still a stigma that skips alongside it, hand in hand, like children at play. We get sick days, not mental health days. It’s okay to have a cold, but it’s not okay to be self-aware enough to say, “I can’t handle this crap today, I’m staying home.”
So, is my life as awesome as it seems online? No, but it’s not that bad either. All I know is that no matter how much I struggle, how much I hurt, or how much I want it all to end, I’m still here. I am still showing up, I am still present, and I am still evolving, which is the best any of us can do.
Odds are, if you are reading this, then some fraction of this article has resonated with you. Take that piece and allow it to multiply your compassion and empathy towards others who struggle. If you see someone who is acting strangely, ask that person if everything is okay. Don’t assume, don’t judge, and most of all, don’t criticize.
It is tough not to do so — we are all human, and are hardwired to assess a situation quickly so that we can understand how to handle it appropriately — but try it. Try observing without judgment. That’s where the truth lies.
If you’re reading this and still feel alone, I hope this shows you that you are not. We are out there, trying our best to get through life as well. Let’s all work together to break down walls of hurt and extend hands of support instead. The internet is an amazing tool for both helping and hurting one another, let’s choose the former.
If you are feeling suicidal, or need immediate attention for any mental illness, please reach out to someone, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Jennifer L. Mezzio is a certified Yoga instructor, energy healer and life coach. In addition, she is a certified nutritionist and bodybuilder. Jennifer believes in the mind-body-spirit connection, and makes it her life’s passion to motivate and inspire others. She is currently in the process of starting a 501(c)(3), which will help raise self-esteem and self-confidence in victims of bullying. Jennifer lives by the mantra “There is no greater gift in life than giving back.” You could contact her via Balanced Wellness and Nutrition.