Importance of Mental Health Awareness
It's something as a society we seem to actively try to ignore, misunderstand, or worse persecute. The effects of poor mental health run deep and are often easy to disguise as they manifest in our most intimate of personal moments and experiences. They're also difficult to escape, as they encourage us to lie to ourselves about our own ability to deal with them. Nobody wants to feel powerless, but poor mental health can easily trick us into making ourselves powerless. My own mental health weakness is an insidious thing called major depressive disorder. It is characterized by lack of focus, inability to find pleasure in things that normally bring pleasure, lack of drive to seek out pleasure manifesting activities, a feeling of worthlessness, and at its deepest a dark desire to cease existing. The slope starts gradually, a food that doesn't taste as good as normal, a game that just wasn't as engaging, a TV show that didn't make you laugh like you normally would. Then you start to withdraw, without the joy found in doing things, you start to do less. Doing less leads to doing a lot of nothing, a sort of limbo where there is no pleasure, and you get upset at little things that grant pleasure to others. Then, if you're like me you start to notice your performance at work sink to an all time low.
“Do people notice that you're not completing things that should be easy?”
“What do they say about your productivity when you're not around?”
“Do you deserve to even be working?”
“Would they notice if you just stopped?”
“Maybe you should just stop, the stress surely isn't good for you.”
These little thoughts creep in and attack, using our darkest fears. Fears that we'd never say out loud, but are spoken like facts back at us every moment of every day. The slow descent we started with is now a steep slide into the abyss and we're our own worst companion on the ride down. At this point you might not even recognize the signs, unless you've been here before. This isn't a place we talk about openly, ashamed of our frail mental health we ignore that this place exists and so others suffer the way we have.
Somewhere near the bottom of this slide, the thoughts of ending it all seem most reasonable. Certainly feeling death would be better than feeling nothing at all. Isolated within our shell of sadness and self worthlessness we take the voice seriously. Maybe we start to consider what it'd be like to turn out into traffic on our bike. Or walk across the intersection without looking at the crossing sign. Maybe even take a few too many pills. Anything would be better than the nothing, and we'd be less of a drain on our loved ones if this slide found a bottom. The sudden stop at the end as a fitting reward for our personal failure.
Then, maybe, someone says something and you listen. Or they take you to someone and people tell you that your inner monologue is wrong. Maybe those serious thoughts about ending it all snap you out of it long enough to cry for help. Whatever the case, for the lucky ones we start to level out, this slide isn't infinite and it does have a limit that isn't a sudden stop at the bottom. With the help of self awareness and medication the slope levels out and even starts to rise. We start to claw our way out of the deep dark hole. For once in a very long time we look up and can see some light. We can't remember what it was like before, but we know it was better. Slowly, painfully we claw our way back out of that deep dark place. The place inside each of us that sought to snuff out our life. Not a malicious force, but a perverted self preservation. All the things we should do to keep going, twisted into unrecognizable shapes as we struggled against the lack of feeling. The innate dread that accompanied any choice. The self-doubt that stymied our decision making faculties.
Like a fresh breath we finally emerge into the light, that little dark voice put back in a box. Its whispers meaningless now that we posses sight of the end. But we don't kill it, we don't neuter it. Instead we forget about it and pretend like it never happened. So we actively participate in the suffering of others at the hands of their own little voice. We were lucky this time to escape, and we might even be more sensitive to the symptoms of the descent in the future. But we're not immune. No it'll be back, ready to take advantage of the right conditions that start us down that gentle slope again. Because we don't acknowledge it and prepare for the return, it is inevitable we will take more rides through on this dreaded slide, listening to that little voice that sounds so reasonable.