Why Mental Health is so Important

Just for a moment, I want you to imagine being trapped inside your own mind.

Imagine that, despite any evidence to the contrary, your mind constantly takes situations and turns them into disasters. Imagine being so incredibly paralyzed by fear, anguish, guilt, jealousy, and every other terrible emotion under the sun, that it’s almost all you can bear just to pull yourself out of bed in the morning. Imagine believing, with barely a sliver of doubt, that the most worthless, undeserving person you know…is yourself.

Imagine yourself dealing with nearly every situation with the knife of anxiety at your throat, giving you the choice of either suffering from panic attacks, or coping with those situations in unsavory ways. Imagine feeling inferior to everyone else, because you can’t deal with simple, everyday situations. Imagine feeling like no one else could possibly get why you think the way you do.

Imagine being so wrought in despair, self-loathing, and guilt, you seriously consider taking your own life.

Society puts so much time, money, and effort into researching a great number of physical diseases and illnesses…cancer, HIV/AIDS, cerebral palsy, leukemia, and countless others. All of this attention directed at these physical afflictions is completely, 100% needed and deserved. In my opinion, the researchers who have made it their life goal to find a cure for, as of now, incurable diseases, are the best types of people. It goes without saying, but a wife shouldn’t have to lose her husband of many years to cancer. A child shouldn’t have to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair simply because she was fated to. Attention to physical illnesses and diseases is absolutely warranted.

Then, there’s mental illness. Individuals who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, PTSD, and dementia (and that’s a small list of the illnesses we know about) often suffer from symptoms just as bad (and sometimes worse) as those who suffer from physical debilitation. There are some who argue that we put so much effort into researching physical diseases because there are many that are terminal – being “overly anxious” never hurt anyone, right?

Wrong. Statistics show that more than 1,000,000 people commit suicide per year. One million people, gone from the Earth, no more life to live, simply because they decided life wasn’t worth it. Granted, not all suicide stems from mental illnesses, but a great deal of it does. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24 worldwide. That is tragically incredible. For such a young age range, for so many people to be convinced that life isn’t worth living, even with so much life laid out in front of them…it’s heartbreaking.

just cancer

Oftentimes we can see the effects of physical diseases: a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy may lose his hair, or a woman suffering from Parkinson’s disease may have shaking hands. For mental diseases, it’s so much harder for the unwary eye to see. A man can put on a smile, make it through a work day, and laugh with his friends, but the next morning his depression threatens to have him stay in bed all day. A small girl may be seen as simply shy and quiet, but in secret she wants to communicate so many things, it’s simply her autism preventing her from doing so.

For those unaware of how many ways mental illnesses can affect people, symptoms are often misunderstood. Depression is seen as being “down in the dumps.” Anorexia is seen as someone having a skinny celebrity as a role model and wanting to look like them. Anxiety is seen as being a “worrywart” or “cowardly.” There is stigma attached to mental illness because so many people are unequipped to deal with it, and, quite simply, because many people don’t realize it’s a serious, attention-worthy problem in many people’s lives.

You see, that’s just it. People don’t realize. They’re unequippedUnaware. How are we supposed to help mental illness sufferers deal with their problems if they don’t speak about them?

To start with, many individuals suffering from mental illnesses aren’t speaking about their problems not because they don’t want help, but because they don’t think they’re worth it, or fear of being judged or, all too often, not even the one suffering from the mental illness realizes it’s an actual, medical problem. We live in an era where more and more light is being brought to mental illnesses every day, and as a result, more of society is becoming aware of the debilitating effect these “invisible” diseases have on people’s lives. But, as a worldwide community, we aren’t quite where we need to be yet.

To be turned against by your own body is a terrible thing. To be turned against by your own mind is just as bad. This is why I write on these topics. These dark, depressing, and oftentimes uncomfortable topics are real things that real people deal with, on a daily basis. The uncomfortable conversations are the ones we need to be having, if we’re to get anywhere in making those affected by mental illnesses have lives not plagued by uncertainty.

The next time someone entrusts in you that they suffer from any sort of mental illness, don’t think about how they may not be in any significant physical pain. Instead, remember that they’re in mental pain, whether it be self-loathing, anxiety, hallucinations, memory loss…they deal with this on a daily basis. But do not let this change your opinion of them for the worse. Instead, respect them for having the strength and fortitude to deal with whatever their mind heaps upon them. Understand that you will never fully understand the way their mind works, but have compassion for them regardless. And, most importantly, love them for who they are, not for whoever their illness is so desperately trying to make them be. Do this simple thing, and the world is one step closer to combating mental illness.

not okay

Stay strong.

– Ryan

 

13 Reasons Why you should watch 13 Reasons Why (give or take)

So I’ve never done any sort of movie or book review on here (or really in general), but today is going to be the exception. I read a book a while back called 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It was a pretty popular book at the time it came out, always on the teen-young adult bestsellers shelf at Barnes & Noble. The premise is this: A teenage girl by the name of Hannah Baker commits suicide, and upon the act of doing so organizes for seven cassette tapes to be passed around to 13 individuals, all of whom she deems “responsible for her death.” The tapes are her personal explanation of how each person drove her to kill herself, and many people say that these tapes are sort of her “last word” upon dying. The protagonist of the novel, Clay, is one of the people the tapes are passed to. As he works his way through the tapes, trying to figure out what he did to make Hannah commit suicide, he learns her story of abuse and bullying.

The book is now a 13-episode series on Netflix, and the way they portray bullying, depression and suicide is both informative and utterly heartbreaking. Over the course of 13 one-hour episodes, you see Hannah go from being a happy, upbeat, incredibly friendly girl, to a person who has lost faith in the world, and decides that the best way to deal with it is leaving it completely.

The series as it’s portrayed on Netflix is half-drama, half-PSA. While it still has a few funny moments here and there (so you won’t be frowning the whole time), most of the screen time is dedicated to Hannah and her life before death, which revolves around her relationships (both friendly and romantic) and how they break down catastrophically. We see these memories from the viewpoint of Clay, a socially awkward yet lovable teenager with a thing for Hannah, who’s working his own way through the stages of grief, having lost Hannah, and trying to understand how he could have possibly contributed to her death.

The whole thing is presented hauntingly beautifully – the joys of great relationships and people who are there for you, and the heartbreak of when it all comes crashing down, generally unfairly. At the beginning, the viewer barely knows Hannah. They feel for her, as she committed suicide, but not much more. Over the next 13 hours, though, each episode will break your heart a bit more as you see the injustice done to her during her life.

It also attempts to present depression and the warning signs of suicide in a way many people can understand. Even the happiest of people can be brought so low to feel like there’s no way out, and as scary as it is, it’s something people need to realize, before it’s too late.

So, my recommendation? If you have Netflix, go watch it. Heck, even if you don’t have Netflix, shell out 8 bucks for a month subscription to watch this series alone. I swear to you, as someone who watches next to no television, this series is worth your time. Know the signs of depression and suicide before they strike – the world will be better off for it.

– Ryan

Why you should fight

Even if it seems way too hard.

So I’m sitting here, close to the end of my work day, my mind a whirlwind of negative emotions and thoughts. It’s all I can do to get my job done without outright screaming into the abyss about, well, everything. My breathing is heavy, my hands are involuntarily tensing, and I’m making an active effort to keep my mouth shut except when absolutely necessary.

I’m even looking over my past posts of inspiration, trying to get myself to calm down and remember what really matters – that I truly am blessed. I read these lines I spurt out over the computer which, make no doubt, I truly believe in. I believe everyone is worth something, that everyone is strong, that everyone can stem themselves against the tide. But damn if it isn’t easy to forget everything I believe is important during those moments of turmoil.

Let’s say I make it through all of this. I will, of course, but hypothetically. I “weather the storm” and all that jazz…what happens then? At the other side of life? Does some angel come down from heaven and sprinkle glitter and pop rocks all over me, with a giant CONGRATULATIONS banner in between two cherry blossoms? No. My “reward” is to be able to live another day, possibly more stressful than the last. It gets easier, sure, but it’s never actually easy.

So many people look at suicide as cowardice, a last ditch effort to make people aware of their suffering and get the (theoretical) last word. Emphasis on last. By no means would I ever advocate suicide or self-harm: it’s never, never, never the answer. I can’t stress that enough. But to look at suicide as some “throw in the towel” move for cowardly people is unfair. People who are genuinely considering ending their own life aren’t cowards – they’re desperate. They are so incredibly convinced that nothing can be done to lift them out of their suffering that the answer is to just give the suffering nothing more to eat at. The only, and they truly think, only answer, is to cut themselves off from every emotion entirely – you can’t be depressed as a body in a coffin, or as ashes in an urn on somebody’s fireplace mantle.

Again, this is in no way in defense of suicide, self-harm, or anything of the sort. There are always other answers to ease your pain in life. The reason I bring up this heavy topic, however, is to ask, if it’s so easy to just end it all, why keep going? What’s a moment’s pain or panic for an eternity of unfeeling, unknowing consciousness? Or maybe I’ll go to heaven…you can’t be sad in heaven, right? That’s why it’s heaven. But I digress…

Logically, ending your life should be so easy. So why are there still so many depressive, anxious, guilt-ridden individuals in the world who struggle with nothing less than their own emotions each day? What keeps them going? The answer, my friend, is life.

“Life keeps them going? Oh, yeah, reeeeal original. Pull that out of a Nicholas Sparks novel?” Yeah, okay, hear me out. As human beings, we are capable of feeling so many amazing emotions that simpler lifeforms cannot: happiness, joy, love, compassion. But also negative emotions: sadness, guilt, hurt, anger, rage…the list goes on. Yes, there are some nasty people out there. Maybe a few some would even consider evil. But humanity as a whole is good. Another incredibly well-known quote that is one of my favorites and gets me through each day, was by a teenager by the name of Anne Frank. “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”She wrote that line as Nazis were searching for people like her to eradicate. An entire country, nay, an entire alliance  was dedicated to wiping people out like her. She and everyone she loved was being hunted down like a prize buck, yet she still believed in the inherent goodness of the human soul. That…is simply mind-blowing to me. I know that her story didn’t end well. Stories in that day and age rarely did. But her hope, her compassion, and her faith has been an inspiration for people everywhere for more than half a century now.
There is, logically, a reason to end your life. It ends the suffering (or so many believe). But trust me when I say that there are a million more reasons to live, despite how you may feel on the crappiest of days.Your mother, your father, brother, sister, dog, cat, iguana, favorite song, favorite video game series, your significant other, sunrises, sunsets, coffee, strawberries, pillows….the list goes on and on and on (I could try and finish my list, but I’d need at least 17 more seperate blog posts to get anywhere near the end).

This is coming from a person who just had a super crappy day. Even after writing all that sap, my mind is still a whirlwind of emotions and I still (kind of) feel like screaming at an inanimate object. But I’m still going to go back to work, I’m still going to smile and exchange pleasantries with people and go home. I’m still going to wake up tomorrow and make it through that day too. I trudge on, because there is so much worth living for. Humanity is a beautiful mess. I’m going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. Keep fighting, because you can. Because you’re given that opportunity to. If you need to talk, I’m here. You got this.

– Ryan