I believe that personal stories of how people struggled with mental illness and how they overcame it are more effective than therapy. If you haven’t been there, you just won’t know what it’s like to live with something like this. What can a Psychologist possibly say to me to purify my thoughts after just reading about depression and anxiety from a book! Does a degree give you a first-hand experience of the disease?
I can almost predict what my first session will be like. They will tell me that I don’t need to worry. Mental illness affects 1 in 4 people in this country. I do not need to look for any reasons for my depression. Then they will probably explain to me what’s going on in my brain on a scientific level, ‘imbalance of chemicals like serotonin, norepinephrine’. They will tell me that it’s not my fault. Then they will ask me to reflect back on my life and ask me a million questions like ‘what did you feel in that situation?’ ‘why did you feel that way?’ ‘what made you do this?’ ‘what makes you do that?’ and so on. The questions never seem to end! And what are they even writing down in their notepad! How is any of this solving the problem? How is this going to help me sleep at night? I know what you’re going to say, this treatment will take time.
Personal stories are relevant to my situation. They give me hope. Equally, when I hear stories about people committing suicide, they give me fear. I read about this one man who suffered from depression for 30 years. I’ve probably had it for only 3-4 years, can’t be more than 5, and yet here I am frantically running around and collapsing out of exhaustion already. It makes me so sad to see that there are people out there who think that sharing your story and talking about mental health is ‘attention-seeking.’ How different would their reaction be if I talked about fighting cancer instead, right? I see how people sympathise with my father after learning about his condition and I see how he tells his story without any shame or guilt because he knows that it was never his fault. If only I could show them the monster inside my head, would they then stop telling me to quit whining and cheer up?!
I hope that anyone reading this, if you are stuck in that spiral of confusion, just know that you are not alone. If you can’t fight anymore, then run. Run and find yourself. But don’t give up. Run till you reach the end of the cliff but do not be afraid to fall. If you don’t fall, how will you learn to fly?