Until you’ve lived through mental illness, it’s pretty difficult to understand what it’s like. And even then, everybody’s experience of it is different. The Internet is a great source of information, of course, but to really get a grasp of what the reality of living with mental illness is, the best way is simply to listen to those who have been there.
A recent Reddit thread is worth reading if you are going through mental health issues, if someone close to you is or if you simply want to learn more about what mental illness is really like. Which is something we all should be doing, really, given that 1 in 5 of us will suffer from some kind of mental disorder at some stage in our lives.
Redditor theone1221 asked psychologists and psychiatrists to share the most profound or insightful thing their patients have ever said to them, and the thousands of responses that followed make for interesting, thought-provoking reading.
On living with an anxiety disorder
“Imagine if every small decision felt like it had life or death consequences.”
“Its like a life or death game of chess. You have to think 10 moves ahead and have a move for every situation in advance. The fear of death gets worse with every possible move you analyze. And if life makes a move that you didn’t see coming, instant breakdown, no matter how small insignificant the move was.”
On feeling suicidal
“I want to kill myself but I don’t want to die.”
“I don’t know which I’m more afraid of: that one day I’ll wake up with the will to kill myself, or that I never do.”
“I don’t want to commit suicide because I am depressed – I am not. Life is beautiful and it’s a privilege to be allowed to experience it, however I am exhausted, and I would like to go back to where I came from. I feel like it is my right as a human being to make this decision.”
“It isn’t sadness. Sometimes… a lot of the time… I just feel like there is a blanket covering me. From head to toe I’m wrapped up in it, I can’t move, I can’t breath, I can’t be me. I feel like someone is just wrapping me up and I can’t do anything about it. I pretend everything is fine, I act like I’m happy and having a good time but really… I’m stuck and can’t escape.”
“The top gets higher the further I climb.”
“Patient with schizophrenia that described it as spending all day in a locked room with a stereo on full blast and not being able to turn the volume down.”
‘”I never thought I was a crazy person until someone told me I was.”
“The medication made the voices go away. ‘I’m lonely now.'”
On the complexities of mental illness
“I worked with a child (11 years old) who had been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and I was having a conversation about how it affects interpersonal communication. I was fumbling through explaining non-verbal cues, misunderstandings, etc when he said to me, ‘It’s like trying to explain color to someone who’s colorblind.'”
On remaining hopeful
“The real me has been asleep for a few years. I hope he’ll wake up some day to rescue me.”
“I was interviewing a bi-polar patient. I asked him how he would describe himself: ‘an altruistic lover of truth and beauty’. I then asked him how others would describe him: ‘bit of a c*** probably’.”
For information and support on mental health issues, visit Canadian Mental Health Association.