“I am Sick and I am Dull and I am Plain”: Learning To Cope With My Mental Illness

As my main man Morrissey would say: November Spawned A Monster. I’ve hated the month of November for as long as I can remember. It’s not the cold weather, the dark nights or the impending doom of Christmas exams. There is just something about this month that really gets me down. With the heightened social tension of the past few weeks in our city and beyond, I know I’m not the only one feeling this pressure. Mental health issues are at an all time high in this country and little to nothing is being done about it. I was inspired to write this post because of the brave words of Conor Cusack, who showed Ireland this past week that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

I was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder this past summer. It was a very long time coming. I do not think that I wanted to admit to myself that there was something wrong. I believed that the constant sadness I felt was just a repercussion of listening to too much of Morrissey’s music, and my friends also reiterated that theory. I blamed my outbursts on Buckfast and tried to ignore the impulses that coursed through every neuron in my brain. It was a rough time for me; it still is. But I am so thankful that I did not give up completely, because suicide is never the answer to your problems.

It is extremely difficult for those who do not suffer from depression to understand it. There is little to no education in schools on this illness, or any other illness for that matter. This is shocking and disturbing seeing as 10% of the population suffer from depression: one in every two women and one in every four males. The way depression and anxiety is treated by Irish society is absolutely disgusting. So many people ignore it and act like it is not there. Even my parents do not acknowledge my mental state and for a long time it made me feel very ashamed of myself. It is very difficult to explain the feeling you get when you are depressed. It is everything and nothing all at once. All life is sapped out of you, you’re forced to smile. All of your energy seems to be devoted to struggling to do even the most menial of tasks.

I remember forcing myself to go to my GP to try and remedy my mental ailment. The look on her face when I told her my symptoms was so removed and cold. She hastily suggested that I go on medication and scolded me that I had left attending a doctor’s appointment so long. At this point, I felt completely hopeless that I would ever get better. Everywhere I looked to seek solace seemed like a dreary dead-end. I was urged to be more social, but was told to avoid alcohol. My life had become the ultimate Catch 22 situation. I spent the remainder of the warm summer days indoors, growing more and more apathetic with each night of tumultuous sleep. I felt ridiculously debilitated and constantly tired.

The best thing that happened to me was going to therapy. At first, I was terrified. No one I had met could understand how I felt waking up everyday and loathing the thought of getting out of bed. No one could understand why I was so miserable and angry. I decided to give the entire process the benefit of the doubt. My first session entailed me scoring my feelings and behaviour on a scale of one to ten which, no doubt, increased my skepticism of the therapy. But then we began to discuss my feelings in depth, combined with relaxation techniques. After several sessions, I felt more stable than I ever had in three years.  My anxiety attacks had ceased and I felt a calmness rush over me. I was overwhelmed, to say the least.

The most important thing to have when you suffer from any mental illness is someone to talk to. It can be anyone at all, just as long as you know that you can rely on them. Because feeling so low that you become self-destructive is absolutely terrifying. You feel completely lost and alone and consumed by an inexplicable darkness. Finding comfort is key. I cannot say that I am “cured” in any way, but I can say that I have improved and I would not be where I am today without the support of my friends. I owe them absolutely everything for being so patient with me. There is still days where I wake up and I feel terrible, but I am glad the pain has eased.

I strongly urge everyone to look out for each other. You never truly know how someone is feeling and you never know how quickly you can improve someone’s mood. We must not shun others or ourselves for suffering. We should acknowledge that life is short and precious, and embrace the ethos of carpe diem. I know that it is all easier said than done, but a little hope goes a very long way.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
 – Friedrich Nietzsche