Mental illness has often been controversial because these illnesses are not truly visible. Your limbs are attached, and there are no marks to signify the problem area, but the problem is still there. It has always been. And because of the stigmatism, this makes it hard to take even ourselves seriously or causes anger. When you reach out for help with something that isn’t visibly broken, like a leg, people look at you like you are ridiculous. It is important to take ourselves seriously, even when others do not.
I want to let you know this is not the case. It always makes me think of the line from Citizen Soldier’s Buried Alive song, “What you can’t feel, must not be real.” Mental illness is real. And not only is it real, it can also be the underlying cause of many other conditions that others can see. Many are not aware of this. Mental health involves our brain, enclosed in layers of skin and bone, and controls the functions inside and outside our body. The human eye can not see it. The mental health symptoms we experience should be clear, visible signs of the torment within our minds. It isn’t always easy to identify, as it can often be confused with other physical ailments. Symptoms include fatigue, pain, dizziness, confusion, and inability to sleep.
People around you may tell you to “calm down,” “Get over it,” “It’s not that big of a deal,” or “walk it off”; however, it’s not that simple. No mental illness ever is. Just as a broken bone requires treatment and physical therapy, there must be treatment and therapy for mental health. So others may not empathize with us, but they don’t need to. They may say it is all in our heads, but that is the point. It is. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain because of hereditary, unknown, or traumatic causes. The brain controls the functions of our body, so should the brain not be one of the most concerning parts of our health?
This is difficult because a lot of this requires empathy from others. To feel compassion, people must have experienced your illness at some level. Here is the issue. Everyone is told to deal with their health in a certain way and thus grow up with a fixed mindset. One of the most challenging ways to get through to someone about our illness is to explain it to them, as difficult as it may be to do. Because it is hard to do this alone and with no help, and if someone can be there with a casserole because you are bedridden with a cold, someone can be there with support and still a casserole when you need them instead of brushing it off.
This is very important for those who know someone with a mental health illness. Check on them. It is hard to ask for help; support can show and mean a lot. When someone asks for help because they are depressed or having a manic episode, this is your clue to help. Don’t roll your eyes and make fun of them or feel stupid. Be there for that person. Wrap them in a blanket, talk to them, sit in silence, put on their favorite music, let them cry, reassure them, not criticize them, hold them, talk, etc. Be there for them. Do things for them. The most minor thing can sometimes make the most significant difference when that person might feel like they are drowning and there is no one there to help them to the surface. Perhaps one of the most important things you can do is to give them patience and understanding. Some may not want to talk, and some may want to be left alone, and this can frustrate you because you want them to be better, but remember that this isn’t a problem-solving equation. You don’t need to fix them. You need to support them. Unless they ask otherwise, validate them, love them, and be there.
So let me end this by saying that mental illness isn’t invisible just because you cannot see it. Do bones only exist when you see them outside the skin? In simple terms, mental illness is ignored and regarded as nothing when, in actuality, mental health is a vital part of our health and should be treated as such.