What It Feels Like to Have a Mental Illness

One of the hardest things to do is for me to try to articulate what it feels like to have mental health issues, what it feels like to not be able to ‘just get over it,’ why I am unable to ‘look at everything [I] have,’ and why I simply cannot give you a reason as to, ‘how can [I] have all of these possessions and all of these opportunities, and still say that [I] am unhappy.’ It has taken eight years for me to develop some sort of a way, one that still does not come close to accurately portraying, what this crippling disease of mental illness does to a mind, but it is vitally important for us who suffer to attempt to explain it in any way that we possibly can, in order for the world to begin to understand it. People fear the unknown and I feel that is the driving force preventing mental health from being a dinner table conversation. The fear manifests through so many thought processes that causes us to lock down whether it is through avoidance, denial, and even disbelief. It is heart-wrenching to hear the amount of people who say that they ‘do not believe in mental health.’ That is why I believe it is crucial to give every last breath, to fight until we are on the brink of collapsing, to use our voice until we can no longer speak, use our words until the last piece of paper is covered with ink, and type until we’ve worn out the last keyboard on earth, to attempt to explain what this disease feels like, so that people no longer fear mental health issues because it is ‘unknown,’ and I will make certain that I fight until my dying day, to make that happen.

The best way that I have found to exemplify what this disease is, is to envision that you have a twin, except rather than your twin being a separate, physical and visible entity, your twin lives within you. Opposed to being two normal individuals, I incorporate the ‘angel on one shoulder, demon on the other’ metaphor. Instead of having each on a different shoulder, you ARE the angel, and your twin living within you is the demon. Every second of the day, every single thought that you have, is challenged by that demon. Every compliment given, every goal and ambition you have, is negated and neglected because that demon inside your head tells you, “they don’t mean it, they’re just being nice, just imagine if they really knew you, they wouldn’t be complimenting you then,” or, “it’s cute that you think you can achieve that, but let’s face reality, you’re nothing, you don’t have the talent to do that, you’re a fraud, you probably don’t even care about that.” It. Is. Dreadful. It truly drains every last piece of your soul until you fall to the floor, surrendering yourself to the evil twin, because you simply cannot take it anymore. Now he knows he got to you, so he hops into the driver seat and treats your brain like a horse as if it were connected to a buggy back in the 1800’s, snapping his whips whenever you start to slow down or resist. At this point you are not you anymore, another entity is in full control and driving every move you make, and every thought you have. He then drives you into self-destructive behavior and self-medication until you simply, break.

It fascinates, yet horrifies me, that our mind can truly divide into two separate entities at war with one another, as our bruised, bloody and beaten body remains the battle ground. That is, until we start caring for our mind and educating ourselves on mental illness and what it all entails and come to an understanding that we are not crazy, and certainly not alone, in having these thoughts. However, the only way to educate is to have a base understanding that it even is a concept. You simply cannot educate yourself on something you have never been presented with. That is why I fight so passionately to breakdown the stigma and to start the conversation. The more talked about, the more exposure it has. The more willingness to share our experiences and have those conversations, the drastically deeper it gets, which provides a far greater understanding of this disease.
To our family and friends, I truly cannot fathom, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, the thought, and fear, of asking your child or friend if they are suffering. If I were to give any sort of advice, simply ask how they are doing, express the openness to have those tough conversations, and maybe share times of personal experience of feeling lost or alone. It may be the hardest conversation you will ever have, but the benefits will far outweigh the struggle.
-Thoughts of Many; Voice of One

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