A key part of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions is the view that those who suffer from them are weak. We see and uses phrases such as ‘break under pressure’, ‘wasn’t strong enough’ etc.
On the flip side there is a growing view that a condition such as depression has been brought on by ‘being strong for too long’. Are either of these views true?
My personal view is that mental health conditions have nothing to do with strength in either direction, though clearly I am not the expert to fully answer that question. There is however one undeniable truth that I have observed from my time both suffering from depression and anxiety Vs the times that I am not suffering.
To continue functioning whilst suffering from a mental illness takes an enormous amount of strength – the type of strength that I simply never need to call upon in my healthy day to day life. When I am free from depression life is easy, getting out of bed is easy, getting washed and dressed, going to work, saying hello to someone, looking at the computer screen, not collapsing into a ball on the floor are all easy things. However, when it strikes, it strikes hard.
Michael McIntyre did a very true piece on the difference between parents and non-parents and how things that non-parents don’t even consider to be a thing are daily battles when you have a child – like leaving the house for example. The very same sketch could be done for those with mental illness – though it probably wouldn’t be very funny.
All interest is in anything is drained, leaving the house, seeing friends, doing the things you love(d), sleeping, etc are all recurring nightmares. To continue functioning, holding down a job, paying your rent or mortgage etc are all feats of huge strength when you suffer from something like depression.
STRENGTH CAN BE LIMITED
If you hold a glass of water out in front of you it isn’t very heavy, but you hold it there for 24 hours it becomes far too heavy for your arm to bear. Also, if you are building up muscles at the gym, your rest days are as important as your training days. The same can be said of mental illnesses. Just because someone is no longer able to function as they used to does not mean they are weak, this is when the saying ‘being strong for too long’ becomes true. And if that is you, then it’s ok to take a break from fighting it and from putting on your brave face – just be sure to get professional help through that time and to come back stronger.
I do not say this for sympathy and I do not say it for any personal respect, but I do say it for everyone who suffers or has suffered. So if you know someone who is continuing to function in the face of this adversity then they deserve a huge amount of your respect for the strength they are demonstrating and if they are slipping or have fallen entirely, then know they are fighting one hell of a battle, don’t use stigma to keep them down, instead give them a hand back up.