OPINION by Tegan Reeves
This week has seen the launch of Mental Health Week, and accompanying it is the ABC’s brilliant website Mental As. It aims to create more discussion about mental health, while removing some of the stigma that surrounds mental health. In response to this, here goes:
I was diagnosed with depression after a series of unfortunate events (that may or may not have had anything to do with Lemony Snicket) a few years ago. At first I was hesitant about disclosing this information, and was even more hesitant about writing this piece. Sure, I might have no issue writing about a one night stand ejaculating on my chest, but I felt uneasy disclosing the information that I am one of the 25% of 16–24 year olds who suffer from some kind of mental illness (unfortunately I was unable to find any official statistics regarding the number of one night stands resulting in ejaculation in unwanted places). Writing about mental illness felt like a risky and exposing move. It was then that I realised that this was even more reason for me to write about it.
I could have easily turned this article into a sob fest about how difficult it is to live with a mental illness, and how those of you who don’t, will never understand how hard it is etc., but that’s all just a bit cliche. After a while you have to accept that you are what you are, and your brain and body might work a little bit differently or be a bit more challenging than the ‘normal’ people around you (are normal people even a thing?).
It seems all too easy to get bogged down in the negatives and hardships of mental illness, and while I am not denying that living with a mental illness is hard, I do believe that we need to be more open and positive in our discourse around mental illness.
So, you’ve been diagnosed with some kind of depression/anxiety/personality/bipolar/undisclosed ‘non-normalness’ disorder. The stigma surrounding diagnosis with a mental health condition can be overwhelming at the best of times, in addition to the negative connotations surrounding mental illness, but don’t despair! I’ve compiled a list of some of the positives of diagnosis with a mental health disorder:
1. You learn how to quickly identify friends from foes — friends are the ones that describe you as a ‘kook’, while people that you probably shouldn’t consider as friends will describe you as an irrational psycho (overhearing a conversation where I was referred to as an irrational psycho by someone that wasn’t even my ex is my personal favourite, and something I should probably not include in my resume).
2. You’re going to have days that are better than others, and in my case a good day results in me being extremely manic, and getting a whole heap of shit done. There is nothing better than looking at a list of crossed out menial tasks like ‘soak whites’ and ‘call Gran’, and feeling like you have saved the world, while simultaneously high fiving yourself in between scoops of ice-cream because you have an appetite again.
3. You’ll find a new best friend. Their name is DRUGS. I ddon’tmean the kind that you hide up your orifices on the way into a festival, because you should probably avoid them, not so much because they’re illegal, but more so because can you imagine someone with depression experiencing a COME DOWN???? NO, because they’ve locked themselves in a dark room for a week convinced that even the nicest ladies on the earth — those ladies that used to take your parking ticket at Wollongong woolies, have grown some sort of deep-seated hate for them. Discovering the appropriate drugs, that can be appropriately prescribed in order to make your head work in a way that isn’t debilitating can be an amazing feeling. The negative stigma that surrounds the prescription of antidepressants is sadly far too prevalent within Australian society (a doctor that knew nothing about me once told me perhaps all I needed instead of antidepressants was to talk to my mother more). While prescription drugs are not the answer for all people, they can be extremely effective for others.
4. Appreciation of happiness and satisfaction takes on a whole new level of meaning and feeling. The moments when you realise you are experiencing raw happiness become more pure and exhilarating, and when the feeling of ‘meh’ that you might experience for the other 90% of your time lifts, you can truly appreciate what happiness is. It’s all about stark contrasts, and to experience these feelings, you have to be in it for the roller coaster ride. I would rather be that person bursting into tears in public places (I may or may not have been seen blubbering with a lot of snot running out of my nose in my front yard last week while an elderly couple walked past in confusion), to go to feeling on top of the world an hour later, in contrast to that person who meanders through life, never being too sad, but never being too happy either.
It’s all about perspective.