For some reason, many people think that people choose to have a mental illness. Maybe it's because they don't understand, or maybe it's because of their ignorance about mental illness. There are many reasons, some of which I've not even thought about until now. However, telling someone that the illness they have is a choice, is not okay, and I'll never understand the reasons why people think this. Yes, not everyone understands mental illness, or understands what it's like to have one. But this doesn't mean people are allowed to tell others that their illness is a choice; it's not okay.
Over the time that I've been mentally unwell, I've had so many things said to me.
Just smile! Be happy. Stop being anxious. You have no reason to be sad. Just eat. Tell the voices to go away. Just ignore the voices! Why are you so moody all the time?
This is just a very small portion of what people have previously said to me. When I used to get told all of this, it made me so angry. Why would I choose to be this way? Why would I choose to be mentally unwell? I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy, and if I could switch my illness off, I'd do it in a flash. So, let me give you an insight into what life is like for me. For those of you that don't know, I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Social Anxiety Disorder. As well as this, I also suffer from auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoia and paranoid beliefs. For the people that don't know what BPD is, it basically causes extreme mood swings, intense emotions, unstable relationships, etc.
I wake up. Great, another day to drag myself through. I lie in bed for at least an hour, contemplating on when I'm going to get up. Just 5 more minutes! However, 5 minutes turns into 10, and then 15, and so on. I hardly have any energy to get up, and I have to drag myself out of bed. I drag myself to the bathroom and run a bath, because I've not washed myself or my hair in a while. Gross, I know, but it's reality of being mentally unwell. Once I'm in the bath I don't have the energy to get back out once I'm washed, so I end up staying in there for too long. When I've summoned the energy to get out and get dressed, I stumble back to my bedroom where I collapse on my bed out of sheer exhaustion. For someone who is mentally well, all of this would take about 1 hour, maybe an hour and a half at max. For me, all of this takes about 2-3 hours. So I'm all washed and dressed. Now what? I could use my skills and distractions. Painting, reading, mindfulness, going for a walk, writing, and the list is endless. Yet all this just seems too much. On a good day, I'd use some of my distractions. But on a bad day, I just can't be bothered. Then comes the intense emotions of sadness, anger and emptiness. When the intense sadness comes along, I just sit and cry for hours. Intense emptiness results in me sitting somewhere, either the floor or my bed, and just rocking back and forwards. And then there's the intense anger. Oh boy, I dread this emotion. I hate knowing that when it's gone and it's over, it's going to come back, and I dread it. Because once it comes along, I'm verbally aggressive towards other people, I scream, shout, throw things and hurt myself. In the past, this intense anger has resulted in the police being called, and being threatened with an arrest. Once I've calmed down from my intense emotions, I feel guilt and shame. What have I done? How could I hurt other people? And then I feel like I need to hurt myself. I feel so empty that I need to hurt myself to feel something. To feel alive. 9 times out of 10 I end up in A&E or the urgent care centre to get my arms cleaned, steri-stripped and bandaged. Then the questions of "Why did you do it?" come along. I don't know. Maybe it's because I feel numb and empty constantly. Maybe it's because I hate myself. Or maybe it's because it's the only thing that keeps me sane.
Back home I go, without any support. If I'm in A&E, I'm seen by the psych team and sent home, because there isn't anything they can do for me. And that's the worst part, because I feel like I'm screaming out for help, yet no-one will help me. At times, I feel really, really desperate. Once I'm back home I usually feel calmer. I can use some of my distractions and skills, until it gets to night time. The sadness comes again, and it's worse than ever. The voices have been at me all day, and I'm fed up. Why me? Why can't they just leave me alone? Next thing I know, I'm using different methods of self harm, including smacking my head repeatedly off a wall, just to get them to shut up. But it's not just the auditory hallucinations, it's the visual too. And oh Lord are they scary! Imagine hearing and seeing the devil, everywhere you go. If you can't hear him, you can see him, and vice versa. He's constantly laughing and saying things to me, and he even speaks to me in Russian (not that I can understand him). Not only this, but imagine getting into bed at night and just lying there. You can hear a few people pacing up and down your room, mumbling things, talking to each other. These people are known as shadow people; they are literal shadows. They're talking about how they're going to hurt you. As well as pacing up and down your room, you can feel them pulling at your hair, scratching at your skin. It's utterly terrifying, and I've had a lot of people, including professionals, say to me:
Just ignore them.
If I could, I really would. When I'm in bed at night, I pray that the voices, or the shadow people, or the devil, will just kill me there and then. Because that's how terrifying it is. I pray that I don't wake up in the morning, that something happens in the night so I die. Mental illness has made me so desperate that I pray to God to kill me already, to save me from this living hell. It's made me so desperate that I've lost count of how many times the police have had to come to my house, or come out looking for me, to save me. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be alive right now.
It's like your drowning, but you can see everyone else around you breathing.