Please Stop Telling Me My Mental Illness Is 'All in My Head'

Stop telling me to smile; that things aren’t as bad as they seem, that I blow it out of proportion. That it’s all in my head — that I can just choose to be happy.

Yes, it is in my head — my mind, my soul, my brain, my body. My thoughts attack me. They yammer on; an insane choir clanging about hopelessness, ugliness, self-hatred and fear. My body aches with the pain. I close my eyes and it dances through my dreams: memories of trauma past.

Stop telling me to quit thinking so much or to quit dwelling on the past. I don’t hold on to the past. It holds onto me with a stranglehold, choking my present and future.

Don’t you think if I could let it go, I would? I hate living surviving like this. I’m not looking for attention. If I could wake up tomorrow, free of chains of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, then hell yes, I would! You’re uncomfortable. I’m sad and anxious. You don’t like it. So, I learned to hide my truth. I paste a smile on my face and try to act, if not happy, at least “normal.” Whatever normal is.

When I can’t hide it, I’m told to smile. Some call me “weak” or “crazy.” Many walk away. Or maybe I push them away. I can’t tell. See, I feel worthless. Why would you want to be around me? Would you believe, or even care, that some days a victory is getting out of bed? I showered, I brushed my teeth, I put on clean clothes. I won.

Isolation and numbness. I watch life. I watch people and wonder why I’m not like them. Alone in a crowd. Both wanting to reach out and wanting to be alone. Isolation is my wall and moat, protecting me from fear — the unknown, risk. I’m safe. So, I watch. I keep distant.

It’s confusing. There are days I feel more at peace. I enjoy being around people. I run, I go to the gym, I blog, I may even go to the writing group at the VA. I laugh at the antics of my pet ferrets. I have some hope for the future. Some plans, some dreams. I never know if it will be a good day, where I function and feel OK. Or will it be a bad day when I can barely accomplish anything and anxiety rides my back always waiting to drag me down into a panic attack. I just want to curl into a ball and cry.

When my mood crashes, it gets even harder. Those long nights and days hiding in my house. Trying to force myself to function in the outside world. It takes so much energy that it frequently feels like it’s just not worth trying anymore. On those days, those times, depression is a little death. I want a drink to silence the yammering thoughts for just a while. I want to sleep without dreams. Without being haunted by specters of the past. I don’t want to wake up. But I know I will. And I’ll paste a smile on my face and hope it’s one of the good days.

Don’t judge me!  Don’t call me weak! Every day I breathe, every time I risk doing something new, every time I keep going — it’s a victory.

My little ferrets often help me through the hard times.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

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