So apparently it’s Depression Awareness Week? Yay. That means I get lots of irritating shit on my Facebook about being strong for too long.
I had a little conversation with my boss this morning. Or rather, I was treated to a pep talk. She was so breezy it was almost painful.
Wow, Narky, you’re doing so well these days! You look so healthy and happy. It’s amazing how calm you are about your exam. When I think back on how you used to be, well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? Wasn’t it awful? Man, you were a mess. That drug you’re on must be a miracle cure. It’s a shame about the weight gain, but small price, eh? You went through such a terrible time, didn’t you? Remember when you were on Lithium and ended up off work for six weeks? Remember how you couldn’t do your job properly when you came back? Remember that drug that made you bounce around like a lunatic and none of us could bear to be around you? This is so much better, isn’t it? How does it feel? Do you just feel so great now that you’re cured?
Of course, I can’t enlighten her. THERE IS NO CURE FOR BIPOLAR. She can’t see past her desperation for my mental illness to be in the past tense. She’s not a horrible person and she is genuinely pleased for me, but I don’t think she’d be too chuffed if I told her that actually, I’m just a bloody good actor. Yes, I am a lot more stable now, but mental illness is not in the past tense for me.
I have been strong for a very long time. I am too tired. That’s because I get on trains and tubes every day and trek across London to get to work. It’s because I work full time and do an MA in my evenings and weekends. You know what that makes me? Tired. It doesn’t make me depressed. You know what makes me depressed? My messed up brain.
So stop shoving your ludicrous memes in my face. Do not tell me that I need to stop struggling, just take a break and everything will be fine. It will not be fine. When I was forced into taking a break, because I was too mental to get into work, it didn’t make everything go away. Actually, it made everything worse. Because I had to readjust to being back at work when I was supposedly ‘better’. Because I had to deal with the sympathetic/scared/suspicious glances from my colleagues every day for months. Because it took me well over a year to get anybody to trust me again.
And now that I’m apparently cured, I have to hide any possible emotion. I get stamped on hard the moment I express irritation over a cock-up at work, if I laugh too much, if I don’t laugh enough, if I talk too much, if I don’t talk enough. Just this morning my boss told me I seemed much more jerky last term. That meant 1) she still watches my every move, and 2) I had to quickly find an excuse that would both provide a reason and reassure her at the same time. I know that because she thinks I’m perfectly calm about my exam next week, I have to remain that way. I have to quickly leave my office if my eyes fill with tears, I have to keep my voice level at all times, my breathing regular at all times. Yesterday, as I was barely controlling a panic attack, she was busily telling me how wonderful everything is. I can’t show it. Ever. I will have to pretend. Forever.
I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Everything will always be fine.
That’s a lie. Everything is not fine. It’s not fine for anyone who has to deal with mental illness. It’s not fine when you have to drag yourself to work every morning when your entire being is screaming at you to stay in bed for the rest of your life. It’s not fine when you have to rely on the government for money to live. It’s not fine when you have to take pills to prevent your symptoms spiraling out of control. It’s not fine when you want to stop taking those pills but have to deal with the risk that your life might fall apart if you do. It’s not fine when people are either scared you’ll flip out or suspicious because maybe you’re making the whole thing up. It’s not fine when people tell you that you just have to be positive.
So if I see this:
Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that you have been trying to be strong for too long…
or any variation of the same on my Facebook this week, maybe, just maybe, I’ll stop saying that everything is fine. Because posting that shit is not fine.