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Things I wish people understood about my mental illness

Do you do these things?


Written by Jodie Kenny and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


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I'm not lazy

Really, I'm not. I love working out, being outside, socialising. It's just sometimes my body tells me I don't. Sometimes it tells me I have no energy at all, and even rolling over in the bed is too much. It tells me that going outside and meeting people isn't good, it causes my chest to get tight and I can't breathe and can lead to a panic attack. Sometimes my body tells me that I need to stay at home, stay in bed, and try to sleep until tomorrow.

I'm not overreacting

You mightn’t understand why something that seems so ordinary and mundane to you, is overwhelming to me. The simplest of things can cause a huge reaction. I've had panic attacks over getting the bus, showering, brushing my hair, simple things that I've been doing almost daily for years suddenly become too much. It's important to realise that in my head I know I may be overreacting, or being irrational, but in my head it's also a reality. There’s a reason this simple task has become too much, and in my head at that moment it's the hardest thing for me to get over.

I'm not looking for attention

I draw attention to my illnesses sometimes because I want people to understand them, I want them to see that this is common, I want to break down the stigma and help people be more aware. I'm not doing any of this as a cry for attention, I don't want pity or congratulations or someone to ride in on a white horse to save me. I just want to educate.

It's a process

I'm not going to heal overnight. There is not one thing that will cure me, there is no overnight fix. It involves constant work, it involves lots of commitment, and even though it can be hard to see sometimes, I am progressing.

Every little thing counts

I congratulate myself for getting out of bed. This might sound sad or ridiculous, but some days it's a big achievement for me that I can. There’s a lot of days I don't want to exist, where the thought of doing things makes me want to cry, when living just seems like too much. So getting out of bed, getting into college, eating three meals, speaking to people, all these are achievements. All these little tasks that others probably don't even think about, I count as wins, because they can take so much energy.

Medication isn't a cure

Medication doesn't instantly cure everything. Mostly what medication does is make life a little easier to live. Before I went on medication I couldn't get out of bed at all. It's not easy to get out of bed now, but at least I can manage it. People need to realise that medication isn't going to suddenly create happiness, or make life suddenly better, it's only going to help in little ways and make life a little easier.

It's not easy to get help

There are so many barriers to getting help. There’s the stigma, doctors, therapists, notes, referrals, waiting lists, it’s all a bit much. People around you offer help but it's impossible to lean on them for the support you need sometimes. Finding the right treatment can take a while. What works for one might not work for another, and all treatment takes time. Getting help can be an absolute nightmare.

I can't just snap out of it

If I’m having a panic attack, don’t tell me to calm down. If I’m feeling low, don’t tell me to cheer up. If I’m struggling with life I can't just snap out of it, I can't just cop on. So telling me that my issues are easy to fix, that I just need to do this or do that to be ok, it's frustrating. It makes me feel that you don't understand what I'm dealing with, that you think I'm to blame for my illnesses, that you don't believe I'm doing what I can every day to get better. Please think before you say these things to anyone who's struggling with any illness. Instead try listening to how they're feeling, remember that their feelings are valid and try to be there for them.

It's not all bad

I can still have fun, I do still have good times. I love being outdoors, I love spending time with friends, I love doing loads of things! I still smile, I still laugh, I still get out of the house. All these things can be a bit harder sometimes, but my life isn't entirely doom and gloom. I've definitely come a long way from where I was, I just still have a bit to go. 

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Published February 15th, 2017
Tags mental health panic attacks wellbeing
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