This may come across as an unnecessarily harsh critique of people looking to do good, but as someone dealing with mental health issues, I must express this.
The community has slowly woken up to the reality of mental health issues. There have been events dedicated to mental health awareness; organizations founded to educate and help children and young adults; and a slew of blog posts and personal shares of people’s struggles.
Yet, with all that, something fundamental is missing.
The typical event includes words from a doctor, rabbi, and recovered mental health person. The former discuss the necessity for public awareness in mental health, and the latter tell over their experiences and recovery. It’s often a moving and inspiring event for all.
What it isn’t is an accurate portrayal of mental health issues.
You don’t see the actual drug addicts getting up on stage and showcasing to the world how dysfunctional and damaged they are. Instead, what is shown are healthy people, people who were able to overcome their sickness, or at least manage it.
Yet, that’s not what mental health is about.
Mental health issues aren’t only “I was depressed, felt like shit, and am now struggling but okay.” Depression, for example, is an all-consuming thick cloud of dust and ash that envelopes its affectee; it convinces him that he’s the worst person in the world; it makes him take late-night dazed walks on Crown Heights streets because in the dark he feels free and secure.
Depression, as I have experienced it, makes me feel isolated from my family and friends. It keeps me holed in my room for days or even weeks. And the disease keeps on growing.
It makes me feel hated me when I go to a friends wedding
It tells me that I’ll never get married, that I’m unlovable.
It convinces me that God doesn’t exist and that the Rebbe was a charlatan.
It makes me look badly at everyone, seeing their flaws exclusively.
It makes me lie in my darkened basement and smelly room looking to the small window for salvation, for redemption.
It makes me shlep myself to therapy only to fall into depression on my way back.
As I begin to hate myself, I being to consume substances that make me feel less like an animal. And that only pushes me further away from myself and others.
I begin to roam the streets and the dark recesses of the internet.
Ultimately, it convinces me that my existence is for naught, that I’m a cancer on society, and I should kill myself. Death.
That’s mental health. That’s the curse of this illness that, like cancer, it slowly and painfully kills your soul. Your eyes look vacant. You slouch in your chair. You begin to look unkempt, and why should you take a shower or get a haircut?! You’re worthless anyway.
But you don’t want to hear that and worse at an event with nice people. You want to be to sigh and say: “God, this is so terrible — we have to do something” and then do nothing.
You want to stand up and clap — oh, that infuriating, hollow clap — that signals your support for that person. Anything to make it civilized and normal. Anything but connecting with that horrible reality of mental illness.
I hope you can now understand why mental health events infuriate me.