Getting mental illness out the closet
Bad enough to be ill, but to feel compelled to deny the very thing that, in its worst and most active state, defines you is agony indeed.”
― Sally Brampton,
It was my birthday early January, and this weekend, instead of having a traditional party, I’m inviting some of my friends round for a cheese and wine. Rather than gifts, I’ve asked them to contribute to a collection for SADAG (The South African Depression and Anxiety Group). For many, this charity may have seen an odd choice, but for me it was the first choice. There are so many people who support good causes involving children, cancer-prevention or animals, but it seems to me that the aged or the mentally ill are the ones who lose out.
I thought about this quite deeply. Why are the charities really needing exposure and donations getting the short end of the stick? Perhaps people are afraid. They are afraid to get old and even more, they are afraid of the taboo of mental illness. Even now in the 21st century to admit to depression, or anxiety, OCD, bipolarity or suicidal feelings is tantamount to putting oneself in the spotlight half-dressed. It’s exposing that part of oneself that is hidden and can, to a certain extent, be kept hidden, unless one chooses to reveal it.
It is not the the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.”
― Aisha Mirza
In my own experience of postnatal depression, I realised even I, a huge advocate for mental-health matters, felt wary before admitting my struggles. But wouldn’t it have been easier to talk then while I was battling rather than afterwards when it was all over?
How many women and men (and children) are too afraid to reveal their illness for fear of rejection, misunderstanding, or jokes in poor taste? Many, I would imagine. And that, to my mind, is no longer acceptable. Because mental illness is not a choice.
And we can start talking about it now to start make a difference. (And contributing to relevant causes can’t hurt either.)