I have spent considerable time on the subject of battles and mental illness. Battles with insurance companies, battles with stigma and prejudice, and even battles with those that we love. But each of these battles, while true and in ways important, are personal and changing depending on the personal. They are subject to outside influences. They require legitimate action in real time. What they are not, and truly can’t be, is battles of note.
After much research and thought I have started to realize that mental illness and the battles we each face can be categorized into three separate and distinctly defined wars. These battles are the ones that those who battle mental illness deal with and confront no matter if there is prejudice or insurance. These are the battles that are real to the person who battles them; and ultimately can determine everything from one’s own fate to one’s own life.
The first battles are the unfortunate battles. They are the ones that those with these horrible mental illnesses must fight. There is no choice in the matter. They are the ones that can’t be taken away, that can’t be escaped from. They are the ones that allow us to live in some normalcy and to discover those day to day attributes that belong only to each of us. They are fights that we fight to make sure our children are taken care of. They are the fights that we fight to make sure that our voices are heard, if only by our own. These are the fights that require courage and strength because no matter how many times you fall asleep, in the morning light, the fight will still be there exactly as it has been for all the years prior. It doesn’t change or morph into a new and easier fight. It is the fight that is required in order to not just live but to survive.
For me these battles include such things as taking my medication each day, not yelling at my children without true provocation, finding ways to do things that are useful and needed despite the desire to simply go to bed. These fights are the everyday fights, and while they aren’t often glamorous they are the ones we are stuck with. The daily reminders that we are in fact in an epic series of battles.
The second type of battle contains the battles that we put to the side. Like all battles in mental illness there is no true escape from them, they are required to be acknowledged, but they can and will allow the wait. The wait for the battle to begin. The wait for the answer to be given. And the wait for the required need to fight them. They can be festering wounds or simple stories needed to be read; but they still project a fight that is waged in the minds of those who get no rest.
These battles are difficult simply because there are so many unknowns. If you put them off for two long there is a chance that they will take a swipe of your skin with that sharp blade they carry so easily. If you allow them to pile up, to continually be shoved into a corner, then they will begin to affect the daily fights described above. The second will go into competition with the first and the blood will flow freely.
For me these battles include the infidelity of my father, the story of my past, the need to compete against my sister, and my inability to finish that which I most want to start. For me these are the battles that don’t destroy me as much as remind me that I am in fact mentally ill. These are the constant battles that weigh more than those I am required to fight each day, yet live inside of me as if it has no where else to go. And no matter how many times I pull these fights out to begin the arduous journey of getting answers and hopefully rest, there truly is no rest to be found. Like planets and a sign they revolve around me until either the star explodes or the planet falls.
The third and last battle is by all means the worst of the battles. These are the battles you don’t fight. These are the demons that you don’t look for and don’t speak to. These are the battles that you hide with every trick you have learned to survive these diseases. These last battles are darkness. They are holes in the soul and in the very fabric of the person that we are. They have no shape, no form; but they have a powerful voice. They have no light, but a darkness that can’t be seen with a candle and notebook. They go down into the depths of who we fear most of all and lay there as if waiting for the prey to make a wrong move.
This darkness, this fight, are the fights that will and do destroy you. They are heard when the world is silent, and they are felt in the cool breeze right before a storm. They are insistent when they want to be and inescapable when the time comes that you must once again determine your own mortality. They define the fear of mental illness. They can and will define your own salvation if you are able to secure one. They are the monsters living under the bed.
For me these battles are mostly revolving around my own sense of self and my own self-image. These are the battles that can allow me to put a knife to my wrist and these are the battles that while never won can never been drowned in therapy, medication, or drugs. They are there. They are waiting. And ultimately they are the ones that lead us far away from the forgiveness we deserve. They are the epitome of evil and there is no true path to fight them.
These last battles don’t have a strategy. These last battles won’t allow right flanks or guerrilla warfare. They are much larger than that. They are much stronger than that.
The battles, which ever level or category we are talking about, do not go away. They don’t take breaks or allow for vacations. They don’t offer silence and they don’t offer surcease. Each of these battles are as real to me as they are to all those who suffer with mental illness. And despite the desperation of our own souls they will remain there for the rest of our lives.