The Struggles We Can’t See

“Could you stop being over dramatic?”
“You have such a good life. What do you have to be sad about?”
“But that happened years ago…”
“Happiness is a choice.”
“Why can’t you just relax?”

These are just some of the many seemingly harmless statements that people suffering from any mental illness take on with a smile, despite having to hear them every single day.

Mental health is something that is often either trivialized or romanticized. Hardly ever is the uncomfortable truth surrounding mental illnesses spoken about. This seems rather ironic, considering how India happens to be the most depressed country in the world. Around 6.5% of our population suffers from an undiagnised mental illness, and it is serious now.

It all has to start somewhere, and even in the case of mental health issues, adolescence is where it becomes rather apparent.

Adolescence is always an unsettling time, with the many physical, emotional, psychological and social changes that accompany this stage of life. It’s like an unstable ship in a wild ocean. Unrealistic academic, social and family expectations can create a strong sense of rejection and can lead to deep disappointment. It is normal to feel stressed out and confused at this age. Today’s teenagers see more of what life has to offer — both good and bad — on television, at school, in magazines and on the Internet.

Teens need professional guidance more than ever to understand all the emotional and physical changes that they are experiencing. Depression can be difficult to diagnose in teens because it’s often passed off as a ‘phase’.

“Once, I was sitting on the side of the freeway. I abandoned my car a mile back and called 911, convinced I was having a heart attack. Confused, I gave the 911 operator the wrong location of where I was. The longer I waited for help the more I struggled to breathe.”

“My diagnoses are Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Both of these mental illnesses can — and usually do — present with a slew of physical symptoms on top of all the mental ones (as if feelings of impending doom and chronic worry weren’t enough). If I’m going through a rough patch, there’s likely plenty of horrible thoughts and physiological sensations that are nagging at me, holding me back from something as simple as a lunch date.”

“It’s 7am and I’ve already burned 1,000 calories on the elliptical. I’m packing up my food for the day. Breakfast is 113 calories for 3 egg whites and 1 cup of grapes. Lunch will be 131 calories for turkey, mustard, lettuce, and baby carrots. I’ve also packed 1 pack of Parliament Lights, 4 Diet Cokes, 1 gallon of water, and 1 brand new pack of bubblemint gum. I’ll have dance class in the afternoon, which takes care of another 300 or so calories. Dinner is always a wild card –– it depends on who’s around and how carefully I’m being watched. I have food saved in my room for later just in case. I am 16 years old and 70 pounds; I am a human calorie counter and numbers genius who, ironically, is also struggling in Pre-Calculus.”

These are accounts by actual people, people whom we might meet in school, colleges or our workplace, people who we might be close to. Rather horrifying, isn’t it?

Most of the time, people suffer in silence. Suffering from a mental health disorder is still a stigma in today’s society, and it may seem very difficult to find a way out.
While the signs and symptoms of mental illness vary depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors, mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
Examples of signs and symptoms include:
● Feeling sad or down
● Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
● Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
● Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
● Withdrawal from friends and activities
● Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
● Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
● Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
● Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
● Problems with alcohol or drug use
● Major changes in eating habits
● Excessive anger, hostility or violence
● Suicidal thinking
Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains. In all cases, it is important to visit a mental health care professional. Leaving an mental illness untreated can cause it to worsen over time and cause serious problems.

It is time for a reality check. Friends, family and the entire world will always find it easy to call a mentally ill human being crazy, insane, of unsound mind, berserk or even worse, a psychopath. But these humans did not turn into psychopaths overnight and neither were they born crazy. It has become important for us to realize the cause behind such behaviours.

Severe psychological trauma: emotional, physical or sexual, suffered as a child is one of the biggest factors responsible for mental illnesses. When a child or an adolescent grows up in not the best households and environments it affects him in ways that are beyond comprehension. He could be lonely and have an immense amount of hatred beginning to form somewhere deep inside of him. Sexual abuse could result into a person hating themselves and the world around them. For many, relations play a very important part in our lives, especially when you’ve lost someone close to you. Whether a heartbreak or someone close passing away, it can shake you up and bring your entire world down. Significant trauma such as military combat, or being a victim of a violent crime can result into people dwelling in loneliness or reacting differently to situations. Mental health illnesses are also genetic in nature, and it is highly probable for the next generation to suffer if the current generation was a victim. Experiencing discrimination and stigma is another major reason behind the increasing rise in illnesses.
However, these causes vary from person to person. Some may not think of the rain to be a big deal, but some may consider the drizzle to be the end of the world.
Today we have made our physical appearance our number one priority. Sweating it out at the gym and ridiculous diets is all we know about staying fit. What we don’t realize is that the human body functions because of the brain. So naturally, it is important to take care of the brain and mind, isn’t it?

But most of us don’t know how to do it.
Meditate and deep breathe for at least 10 minutes every single day. And if you can’t seem to “find time” for it, then you must know that at some point you might end up with one of the cloudiest minds ever known to you. Eat healthy, not to stay physically, but mentally fit. Research shows, that a nutritious and balanced diet protects the brain from stress and prevents brain cells damage. So, here’s also the secret to staying physically fit. When your brain is healthy and happy, it will show in your physical appearance as well.
Learn a little bit about yourself every single day. This will help when you won’t know what’s going wrong. It is the first step to healing for most people who have been diagnosed with different mental illnesses. Many a times, the depression gets the better out of you and the OCD goes out of hand. At such times, it is important to realize that medical help is required. Don’t hesitate. It will only save your mental peace. And as for the society, the society will always talk and question your choices.
But this is about you. Your mental peace must be your top priority.
It is important to understand that professional medical help is required or then it must be made sure that the members with that person provide sufficient encouragement at the right time, at the right place.
For those who are mentally healthy and sound; remember that 1 in 5 adults experience some sort of mental illnesses throughout their lives. The person sitting next to you could be one of them.Keep your senses alert.
Silence,in itself could mean a lot.
Be there for the people that you love.
Don’t hesitate to ask your colleague how’s his day going or your friend who you’ve seen struggling for the past three days.
Your words, your love, your ability to listen can change the entire course of someone else’ life.
For those of you going through a difficult time; remember you are not alone. You will never be. Every single one of us has our own story to tell.
Remember that just like the good times, the bad times will pass.
Remember to forgive and forget. Don’t let your thoughts pile up. Open up or pen them down.
And as cliché as it sounds, help yourself when you think no one else can.
Learn about yourself. Know your cycle. Know what triggers your anxiety and OCD. Know what kind of people are doing you more harm than good. Know what you love.
And most importantly, love yourself.

Asawari and Saloni

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1 Comment

  1. Useful article for all

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