08 Mar I’m not crazy
“I’m not crazy you know?”
My husband looks at me with sad eyes as he explains his mental illness has been upgraded from anxiety to bi-polar. Somehow the new label seems much more daunting.
We all suffer from anxiety from time to time, don’t we? This is likely to be one of the thousands of misconceptions around mental illness. Anxiety is not being nervous. Anxiety is debilitating, crippling – an unimaginable torture. But to those of us who sit on the sidelines of mental illness, anxiety seems relatable.
“I know you’re not crazy”
I squeeze these words out somehow defying the reality that my throat is collapsing into itself – as is my heart. I beg my eyes to radiate reassurance. Bi-polar? The word itself lacks any reassurance with zero chance of being relatable.
The days and weeks that follow are a blur. At times I wonder if I too have bi-polar as my emotions swiftly swing from being strong and positive to a mess. We’re catapulted into a new world of psychiatrists, mood stabiliers, mindfulness retreats, nervous laughter, petty arguments and many tears while still managing three young children who have no idea the landscape has dramatically shifted. Amidst the mayhem I find silver linings. Support from beautiful friends as I reveal vulnerability (this is something I struggle with); a new level of appreciation for my children as their innocence lets me escape the adult world for moments at a time; wiping our busy schedules clean; the sanity of my inner sense whispering this is how it’s meant to unfold there are lessons that need be learned here.
And as for my husband, his actions and attitude are reflective of the man he is. He’s defying the stereotype of retreating inward – but of course he is because he is still the man I fell in love with. He is still the same person. He is being proactive, he’s open, but most importantly he’s talking, even in the dark moments. Talking to colleagues, to close friends, to me. This is what will get us through. His brave approach is what contributes to changing the stigma around mental health. At times I know he wishes he’d kept quiet. I tell him he is a hero. For every person that talks openly about their mental health struggles it opens the door for others to do the same. I’m grateful we live in a day that this type of conversation is applauded.
I share this extremely private situation publically only to contribute to the conversation that mental illness is happening all around us, behind faces that are familiar. They are the people we love or in the lives of people we know. Make your relationships, friendships and work environments places where people can talk about their mental health struggles.
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.
– Brad Meltzer