Mental Illness: What is it to you?

If someone asked you what mental illness was to you, what would you say? How would you answer such a question? To be asked has so many implications. Does the person think you have a mental illness? Do you even feel comfortable or informed enough to answer correctly? If someone asked me right now, I would hope the following words could help give mental illnes, mental wellness, some substance or an image to understand.

If someone asked me about mental wellness today, I would describe it as being very lonely and isolating. The moment you share with someone that you get sad and need someone to talk to, but aren't really sure why you're so sad, people seem to disappear. Ever so slowly, over the next few years, people seem to disappear until you have a very limited support group, which sabotages a person's ability to seek healing. It's like a cycle that repeats--low support, low motivation to improve emotionally or behaviorally. It's like a cycle--that we cannot talk about because it bothers other people to hear.

It bothers other people to hear because they are not comfortable within their own skin, or they are uncomfortable being around strong emotion. Sadness, grief, anxiety or extreme negative emotions--no one wants to be around that for a prolonged period of time. So the support disappears, and the sad person is left with her damaging thoughts, alone. For years. She's alone and tries to cope through creative outlets, but something is always missing--that human connection, to feel like she hasn't disappeared from the thoughts and hearts of people in her life, but she'll never know for sure because she cannot feel certain emotions or talk about certain subjects around the people she longs to be close with.

It just cannot happen. So for years, she is alone with her thoughts and feels like an imposter. She feels like she is broken and cannot form lasting relationships with people because those in her past left when a certain part of her got sad. She spends her waking adult life questioning if she did anything wrong to push others away, and wishes so strongly, that they could understand and accept her for who she is, but they will not. They do not understand because it is a stigma, and will be for some time. Not being normal emotionally--is not okay. Although many of us will go through moments of grief, loss, anxiety or depression, it is not okay to publicly verbalize it. Although human beings are the culprits for interpersonal pain, and a lifetime of childhood pains to remedy, we cannot talk about it.

We ignore empathy and compassion for the almighty dollar. There is no room for love in a world of competition and limited resources. Kindness is seen as intentional or malicious--those who are kind are seen as wanting something in return. Mental wellness affects us all, yet lack of information and stigma inhibit discourse on something that is universally human. It is the human condition to feel emotions, positive or negative. It is the human condition to seek healing from our wounded past. It is the human condition to seek human connection, to belong, and strive towards progress. Stigma and discomfort of our inner emotions are stopping progress for healing and an open dialogue.

This is what mental wellness is to me. I hope one day we will have a safe and open dialogue about the mind's wonders and how to heal generations of emotional pain. I hope one day we can openly speak of mental wellness and how to strengthen connections within our communities. I hope that my children will feel safe enough to ask for help, and not become recluses or drift from human contact. I hope they will find strength in the emotional struggles of their elders, and build an empathic community grounded in compassion and mindfulness.

first photo: self