What if I wasn’t just a moody bitch, what if there was actually something wrong?
And what if I told you that my problem was incurable, though hopefully not terminal, would that help you to understand? And together, with my loved ones, we could celebrate that understanding with black humour. We could laugh at the stupid things that upset me; like the way the sun doesn’t do as its told, and that life keeps throwing those curve balls at us. We could self-medicate with humour, it would beat wine, or drugs, or food, or sex.
We could make a pact – you and I – that said I would do my very best to keep as even keeled as possible, I would take the right medication, get the right exercise and ease back on tough days. In return, you would do your very best to not give up on me, and to understand when I keel over. Not panicking that I was about to completely capsize, not getting angry with my inability to steer my way through stormy waters.
I know it’s a huge amount to ask of anyone. I understand it isn’t easy. I know that everyone concentrates on how hard it is for those who are stroking the black dog, but what about those who love them, live with them, or are friends with them? What help and support do they get? Not a great deal; I can see that.
I’d like to change that, and the only way I know how is to help raise awareness of the struggles those who live with sufferers of mental illness, manage to overcome.
So much more should be done to help those people, and with 1 in 4 suffering at some stage of their life, that’s an awful lot of husbands, wives, sisters, mothers, brothers, and friends. Understanding is the first step, but there must be a next step. Would it be talking about it? Smashing the stigma, so that everyone can share the problems they’ve experienced, and share the support and lessons learned. I don’t know, we could even call it something really wild, like being part of a caring community.
What if, I couldn’t get out of bed some days, because I wasn’t well, not because I was lazy. What if I continued to keep going even when the thoughts in my head screamed at me to give up… could you see that as courage, or would you only see the bad mood and ask me to snap out of it? To use my sick, sad mind to think my way out of my own mind’s darkness?
What if blogging about it, talking about it, being honest about it, appeared to others that somehow I was trying to get on the bandwagon? That I was making it ‘trendy’, because I had an illness like the stars, like Stephen Fry, or Ruby Wax? As if I had the latest artistic accessory. Because, you know, not sleeping, and being constantly panicky is an acceptable price to pay, for the profile and attention.
You know what? All these ‘what ifs’ don’t change the truth.
I am not just a moody bitch. Nor a lazy cow. I know that within myself and I do not have to prove it to anyone else. I have an illness that cannot be cured, but it can be moderated. It can be controlled, and I am doing my best to do the right things to keep me bright and perky.
My illness is depression and anxiety, and the hardest thing about it is, other people’s misapprehension of my behaviour. During the past 16 years since I was diagnosed, I have been called all those things, up there. I’ve been told that my depression makes me a bad mother, a poor worker, lazy, moody, miserable, whiney, whingey and weak.
That’s been fun.
But one thing I realised just this week (I know I’m a slow learner), is that whilst I may appear to be just a moody bitch, I can work on it, I can deal with that. My mind may have problems, at times, but at least it is open. My detractors however, like those stone-throwers who live in glasshouses, are not open minded.
They just truly are, moody, bitchy, and bigoted, right to their very core.
NB/This post was written to mark Depression Awarenss Week in the UK. But all of it is my own, true, lamentable experience. Have a look on The Black Dog Tribe’s website for more information and support for those who suffer from mental illness and those who live and love them.
Also have a look at this helpful online tool that helps you to take charge of your mood’s highs and lows by charting them. Moodscope