Imagine having a crippling headache. You cannot move, you sure as hell cannot carry a normal conversation and you just want to sleep till that nightmare of a pain gets over.
Now, imagine that no one around is cooperative. Your mom tells you to stop being a baby because it’s just a headache, your friends call you a sissy because they’re sure it doesn’t pain that much and your boss wants you to keep working because everyone gets a headache once in a while.
This is exactly how a person with a mental illness feels. Their discomfort isn’t visible, so people conveniently assume it is nothing.
“Just grow up and stop whining about everything in life.”
“Yaar, tum fir dukhi lag rahi ho. Cheer up! Life isn’t as bad as you make it out to be.”
“Everyone has bad days. It doesn’t mean you just sit in bed and do nothing.”
These are just a few of the sentences that are thrown at people with a mental illness. They’re asked to ‘Chill’, ‘Relax’ or ‘Shake it off’ but the one thing we refuse to do is understand.
We refuse to understand that their minds do not cooperate with their bodies. They are constantly followed by their demons and it is hard to just ‘Chill’. For some people, even crossing the road is an anxiety-ridden experience and they cannot ‘relax’ through it. Some people have exhaustion deep down till their bones and they can’t just ‘Shake it off’.
The problem with us is that when we hear the term ‘Mental Illness’, we automatically imagine mental asylums, psychiatric wards and a bunch of prescription medicines. But the truth is that mental illness is on the inside and could happen to anyone. It could be the boy who tops the class but makes himself sick after eating because he feels he needs to be a certain weight to find love. It could also be the girl who makes others laugh but is dying with every breath she takes.
The problem is that most people affected by a mental illness are forced to cloak it in secrecy. They’re taught that it is a thing to be ashamed of. It takes a lot for them to even admit to the fact that they’re not fine. And then our insensitive remarks go and make them feel like they’re exaggerating. We need to realize that we’re extremely lucky to be healthy and it doesn’t take a lot to extend a hand of help to someone who is not.
“If you’re not feeling fine, just stay in bed.”
“Do you want to talk about why you feel low?”
“You look quite off today. Did something happen?”
These are the sort of comforting things a person with a mental illness wants to hear. Honestly, it doesn’t take a lot to hear a person out and understand their situation, does it?
So, if someone tells you they’re feeling low, don’t dismiss them. Treat a mental illness the way you treat an illness of the heart, lungs or pancreas. There should be no distinction that way.
Life hasn’t dealt the best of cards to a person with a mental illness. But you can at least help with easing the circumstances. Stop treating them like they’re struggling, victims or patients. Treat them like friends who need a little understanding. Take them for walks, keep a check on them, encourage them to visit a counseller, but most of all, be a listener.