My last post was a long time ago, but I'm still getting responses to it on Twitter.
Some of the things I've learned from those responses:
* That people think I'm 'brave' for talking about my mental illness. This makes me sad, because it suggests the default is to maintain silence and, more importantly, that there's a huge risk involved with 'coming out' as a crazy person. And there totally is. And that's messed up. I feel like we should be able to talk about mental illness in the same way we talk about having a sore thumb, or the flu, or cancer. Why is it that when people tell you they have, say, diabetes, we're all sooo sympathetic, but if you say you're manic depressive, people shit themselves?
* People also think I'm 'brave' for admitting I use alcohol to deal with depression. Some pointed out how unhealthy it is for people 'with my condition'. Or that I should be careful. Or that I'm irresponsible. I find this quite interesting. Every afternoon, my twitter feed is chock full of non-crazy people saying "Fuck, today has been so stressful. Now relaxing with a well-earned beer" or "Hooray! It's the weekend! Off to the pub!" or "Argh, my kids are being total arseholes. Need a glass of wine". You know what? I use booze in exactly the same way. It makes me relax, it calms me down, it slows my brain - which generally barrels along like a fucking out-of-control freight train - and helps me think more clearly. Obviously I'm not (by any stretch) claiming that it's a good way to deal with mental illness. BUT I'M NOT A CHILD. My brain may work in mysterious ways, but it still works. I understand the difference between 'healthy' drinking and 'unhealthy' drinking - in fact, I think I made that quite clear in the original post. I know what works for me and what doesn't and I'd appreciate if you could trust me to make those decisions for myself. Kthx.
* People in the country really identified with my post. I don't know if that's because it was circulated more via country networks, or because it was written from a country perspective, or because country people experience more isolation than most. I suspect the latter. Lots of country people are online these days, but we're still lagging well behind the city. Get your country friends into social media! It will make a world of difference to their lives.
* Some people who know me IRL were surprised to learn I was a total nutbag. I get this a lot. Mental illness manifests itself in many different ways and, I admit, I'm lucky that mine (mostly) allows me to function in a way that keeps me off the radar. Mind you, friends have still said "Ah, yes. Some things make more sense now", so it's not like it was completely invisible. But my point is that you can't always tell when someone's mentally ill. People need to remember this when they're telling their 'sad' mates to pull themselves together or stop being pathetic and just get over it. They might be struggling more than you realise.
I want to thank everyone who commented on that post, here and on Twitter. I wrote it in a fit of gratitude, to let others know that support was out there - that the magic of social media means you can still feel connected, and loved, and cared about, even when you're totally alone. The response pretty much proved my point, because I've since received a whole pile of love and support via online networks and it's put me in a better position to offer the same to others.
Keep fighting the good fight... against your moods, against self-censorship, against shame, against stigma, and against non-internet folks who keep telling you to switch off your computer and meet 'real' people. We're real and we really do care.
In solidarity x