It’s easy to pretend you’re okay when inside you’re dying. It’s easy to put a smile on your face, to laugh at people’s jokes and to join in with conservation. People notice the laughs, the smiles, the participation. What they don’t notice is how your smile stops when everyone isn’t looking, how the laughter slowly dies out, how even though you’re present your mind is elsewhere. Mental illness is silent on the outside, but inside its screaming. Doing the opposite of what you feel is extreme strength. It can be easy to fake a smile, or to laugh at a joke. It’s easy. But it’s not easy to hide the pain, the frustration, the fear or the loneliness. It takes so much strength to function each day, to even breathe, but we do it – because we have to. We hide everything we feel because we have no choice. We have no choice because people judge. They judge before they know the story. “Oh, she’s sad again.” “She’s just attention seeking.” “We’ll just ignore it.” You don’t want to appear vulnerable, attention seeking, a liar, insane or annoying.
You don’t want to destroy anyone else so you hold it all inside where it destroys you.
I’m talking about mental illness. I’m talking about the performance that we put on in order to hide the truth. Sometimes we admit that we’re feeling down, suicidal or scared. But this confession is only a sample of what we are actually feeling. We won’t tell you everything because we’re scared of your reaction.
However, there are warning signs – small enough that if you don’t look close enough you’ll never see them.
The glazed over eyes, the staring at nothingness – an indication that we’re present but not aware. We’re here physically but mentally we’re elsewhere. The rocking, the twisting of hands, clenching, fast chest movements, constant body movements – an indication of being uncomfortable, upset, unsettled, scared, worried…the list goes on. The scars, the ‘dots’ that look very similar to spots, scratches, bruises, broken bones – an indication of emotional outburst, a breakdown, a meltdown, a release of emotion or anger. The smiles and laughs that end suddenly, that don’t quite reach the eyes, drooping of the eye lids and relaxed body movements – an indication of trying for too long, tiredness and exhaustion. Avoiding social interaction, not getting out of bed, constantly sleeping, disappearing for hours, days or weeks for unexplained reasons – an indication of being so exhausted mentally that physically your body won’t function, staying in bed or your room where you feel safe but cry constantly for being alone.
Mental Illness is no walk in the park. It’s a roller-coaster that continues to claim lives.
Mental Illness isn’t loud. The reason you didn’t hear it is because you weren’t listening. Look around you, open your ears, and you just might see it.