I spend a good portion of my time on this computer reading the blogs and updates from my fellow mental health sufferers. Some writers publish diaries of sorts, where they are and what is happening to them. Some talk about their difficulties or their out of control behavior, some even talk about their medication. And each and every post leads me to one thought only – whoever you are, you are not perfect, but don’t let go of those monkey bars.
My disease is all my own. I can talk about my doctors, my meds, my experiences until my fingers bleed but the journey is all mine. The pain each of us suffers, whether mentally or physically, is all our own. It is started in the brain and ultimately will die in the brain. We are not lemons, we are not the same. We are so different that each of us reading these blogs must note without a shadow of a doubt that we can’t help. Yes, we can say the good words but mental illness is one of those few things that is completely up to the person with the disease; not those in their proverbial cheering section.
The reason mental illness is so different than say, cancer, is because it is not dependent solely on some drug to be controlled. Mental illness isn’t as simple as a few cells in our bodies not acting appropriately and you can’t compare it to itself. It is a disease that surrounds itself in mystery, misunderstandings, lies and betrayals. And if you haven’t experienced those last four, you have a unique kind of mental illness.
I read the posts of those with these diseases and hear myself speak. I can close my eyes and picture my life superimposed directly into the lives of others who are suffering. And it never seems to matter if I never did cocaine, or some of the other radical behavior, I can understand the motive for doing it. I may not know the burn but I know the reason for it. It is often through other’s words that my existence is given legitimacy. There is no other disease that does this.
Those of us who write and suffer these diseases know what it feels like to have parents distrust us. Those of us with mental illness know what it is like to suddenly and with almost painful nerves quit a job, a marriage, a life that we were told to live. All of us with these mental illnesses know what it is like to look into our personal abyss and drown. It may be personal but it is also mentally universal.
I wish that those who profess to love me could as easily as I can, see and listen to the words of those strangers writing about the same thing as I am. I wish that those who think they love me, could see and hear the pain, the desperation, and even the times when we let go of those monkey bars for no reason then it might mean they will finally believe me. If they see other writers crumbling maybe it won’t be so painful when I do.
The general refrain through many of these posts however is a sheer lack of understanding from those around of us that are supposed to. In common you can see each of our struggles and pain and yet, not one real solution. It makes us great writers but unfortunately it often seems the world has forgotten how to read.
When I read these posts from these wonderful writers I want to stop my day and say thank you. I want to make sure they know that they may be writing for their own cure but at the same time they are legitimizing mine. I want to spread my arms and gather them in hugs if only because there are so few available to us. I want to give my hope, my inspiration, all the words that are easily said but never, ever, believed.
If I could I would tell those writers out there you are okay. It doesn’t matter if you are in a hospital bed or the lonely bed in your own room. It doesn’t matter if you forgot your medications or if the doctors decided that your fate can’t be your own. You are okay. Not great, maybe. Not horrible, maybe. But often we are much more okay than we allow ourselves to be.
It is really hard when you are listening to the doctors tell you what they believe the answer is. It is really hard when you have to listen to your parents give their opinions about something they can’t understand (and don’t want to). It is really hard to have a boss scream at you and not be able to respond with the minute details of these diseases and why it effects your job. It is really hard to remember when everything inside of us and everything around us is telling us to listen not to others stories but the misery in our own, that we don’t have to.
There is a comfort in falling down and sitting in our own lair of darkness. There is an amazing amount of comfort being able to look at those we love and not see what we need. It makes us and this disease misunderstood and often in the misunderstanding it allows us the freedom to find our own flight.
But you can’t let go of the monkey bars. You may not be able to go forward and I can never find the strength to take those steps back, so swing there. And as you swing there recognize that your arms are hurting, your back is being pulled and all those others who want to pass you are getting impatient. And still hang on.
Don’t find the strength within your muscles or the bones that have carried you. Find your strength in the determination to wake up tomorrow and get back on. And when you are on those monkey bars don’t think about the sky above or the ground below. Simply hang there until you are ready to move.
That’s what I want to tell these authors. Simply hang there until you are ready to move. Shut your ears to the hate, the misunderstanding, the ignorance, even the intentional flicks of pain given by those you love, and simply hang there. The monkey bars may have been designed to create muscles in small children, but for us all it is meant to do is give us a place to hang. Hang on. Hang in. Hang there.