Dear Mom and Dad, I Need You to Accept My Mental Illness
Dear Mum and Dad,
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have this voice in my head. At first it was just a whisper, sneaking in late at night when it was quiet. But the voice got louder and spoke to me more and more over the years. It makes me doubt my every action, it makes me agonize over every word I speak. It tells me I am stupid, it calls me a failure, it tells me I’m annoying and it tells me you hate me. Sometimes the voice is so loud and I feel so exhausted I can barely move. When I ask the voice what I should do, it tells me to hurt myself, it sees some busy traffic and it tells me to run in front of it, it sees that knife and it tells me to hurt myself with it. The voice was so loud and so persistent, I saw no end, I believed everything it said. I became so sad, I eventually stopped feeling anything. The voice became “helpful” then — it helped me make a plan. It tricked me into thinking the only way to make the voice disappear, was to also make myself disappear. However, that’s when the other voice would also speak.
This other voice made me see the future, it made me see all the detail, it made me see all the pain. That voice would save me, but that voice also plagues me. Voice number two has a physical form, much harder to hide. It clouds my mind, it stops my brain from functioning, it makes me feel sick, it causes me feel physical pain. This second voice is no friend, it makes me scared of everything. So welcome to my mind, where three voices battle. There is the depression, it floods my mind with painful thoughts and memories spontaneously. Then the anxiety, the voice of panic and overthinking. Then, somewhere in there is me, who just wants to be happy.
I know this sounds silly, but the hardest thing I do each day is just getting out of bed. I spend all night agonizing — sometimes it’s depression giving me a highlight reel of every painful memory, other times it is anxiety racing around my mind, listing everything I need to do. At some point I eventually sleep, sometimes even without nightmares, but when that alarm goes off I feel so exhausted. I can just about deal with that — coffee helps — but then anxiety and depression also wake up. I panic, I think of all the things I need to get done today, I imagine them all in my mind. I’m scared of not finishing, scared of failing, and then depression tells me I shouldn’t even try. So I lay there for a while — powerless, exhausted from the nightmares and panicking about the clock ticking, plagued with the fear of failure.
Eventually I force myself up and try to focus on just one little task. The voices quiet down and I gradually get on with my day. Some days I’m not so lucky. Some days the depression wins and I lay there for hours and hours, doing nothing but thinking about how pathetic I am. I tell myself I will fix it tomorrow, then the panic and the pressure increases and that night’s sleep is even worse, so the next day is even harder. That cycle just continues and the voices get stronger. But don’t fear, because I understand the voices are not me. I don’t know where they came from, but I know they’re not my words.
That is what makes me better now, why I seem happy. I try my best not to listen, and some days I am really strong. I push it down with dreams of the future, of a life where I might one day be happy. I know how to fix myself now, I know I will beat this. However, I need you to understand more than anything that everyday is still a battle for me. It may seem silly to you, but for me this is all so real and so difficult. So when you say I am lazy or weak or pathetic you cut deep into my wounds. You make me doubt everything I am trying to do, and you become just like those voices. As well as shouting at me, telling me to snap out of it, telling me the voices are my fault, you might as well be a part of my illness too. You may forget your words or your actions, but depression takes great satisfaction in storing it and playing it back to me. I don’t expect you to fully understand, but can you please just accept this is happening to me? That alone will make me ten times stronger. That is all I need from you.