It is officially my first week working for myself and things are going pretty well so far... I've had a few babysitting gigs and I've organized my life a little bit. I'm starting to realize though (again) how far deep living with a mental illness actually goes.
When I was working a full time job my depression and anxiety made me so exhausted and so anxious that working 40+ hours a week and functioning as an adult was just way too overwhelming. I couldn't seem to manage it all. However, when I am working for myself and not working for anyone else, my anxiety and depression manifests in other ways. They are just always there and sometimes it's really hard to explain to people what or how I'm feeling.
I'm starting to really understand why it is so important for artists, scientists and medical professionals to work together and make people more aware of these issues. I don't know how many times during the past 6 months I've tried to explain why or how I'm struggling and people just look at me blankly.
When you experience depression and/or anxiety and you "come out" to people about it, you get at least one out of a multitude of possible responses. Here are some expamples of responses I've gotten after explaining to people that, "I have depression and anxiety, and things have just been a little hard recently"
"Oh, I was depressed once. Like, I wasn't just SAD, I was really DEPRESSED. It lasted like two weeks it was awful!"
"Well, just try to think positive! Think of all the good things you have in life!"
"Pray about it! God will help."
"Oh, well let me know how you are doing mentally each week, we wouldn't want it to affect your job!"
It's not a malicious thing. No one really ever intends to react in an uneducated or harsh seeming way. It's just that people don't understand what depression actually is or how it affects every aspect of your life. A lot of people are unaware that depression gives you physical symptoms that sometimes you have to really be aware of yourself to even know that it is your mental illness. It takes a really, really long time to fully be aware of how your depression affects you. In my case, I have to even be careful to not let my anxiety and depression play off of each other.
I've been afraid of working for myself for a long time for a lot of different reasons. One of the reasons is my mental illness. But I am tired of trying to make people understand me in uncomfortable environments. I am tired of working with companies and organizations full of people who have no idea about or havnt had any education on mental illness.
Sometimes I think people assume that when a person takes a "mental health day" , that it is just an excuse to be lazy and not go to work that day. I wish people didn't hold this negative stigma. Mental health days should be as accessible as sick days, and yes, I think they should be two separate things..because sometimes I'm vomiting (physical sickness) and sometimes I am so anxious I can not breathe. Do they go hand in hand sometimes? Sure. But having only 3-6 "sick days" per year is absolutely ridiculous for anyone who is a human being.
Anyway , I think by immersing myself in my art, people will start to understand me by simply looking at my art. I hope I can do this and I hope it helps other people.
I hope this blog turns into a page that other people who struggle with mental illness can read, and relate to , and have discussions without fear of people telling them to just "think positive and move on".
We are not victims, but we also do struggle, and it is really a handicap sometimes. Wanting people to understand you is valid, and to those of you reading this that struggle with mental illness, I understand you, and I think you are both valid and real.