The course of conflict isn’t determined by the person who initiates but by the person who responds. – Mozart In The Jungle
More and more, mental health awareness has been getting its due attention and advocacy as social and traditional media shine focus on stories of people suffering from clinical depression and/or manic-depressive episodes.
A couple of months ago, there was wonderful article on Cosmopolitan titled This Is The Suicide Story You’re Not Hearing by Abigail Jones (@AbigailDJ) that centered on the “invisible 280” – that “for every person who dies by suicide, there are 280 who decide not to go through with it” (accordingly to the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA.) The stories were powerful and brave, and the challenges and suffering far too real.
We need more stories and studies like this, as the stigma associated with mental health can only be addressed when you lift the veil of misunderstanding that shrouds this condition.
Lifting that veil can also help another silent group that seldom garner the focus nor attention of these stories (at least to my knowledge – outside of a chance appearance in some forum group about mental health) but has suffered along deeply with the “sufferer” – and that is the afflicted’s inner circle.
They’re the faithful few who by choice have decided to live by those immortal words that have been uttered in every vow of togetherness – “through thick and thin.”
Be it family relationships, friendships, work alliances – loyalties and interactions are deeply challenged when dealing with someone suffering from the crutches of mental illness.
At the core of that “challenge” is trying to balance our love and concern for our ________ (friend, spouse, son, daughter, dad, mom, brother, sister, etc.) against our pre-conceived biases of how things should be.
The Heart Is Willing But
…most of us are not professionally trained to deal effectively, not only with what a person with a mental affliction is internally going through, but also with our own responses and feelings when their suffering is made for us to bear.
Sometimes there’s only so much empathy one can genuinely summon before the stance devolves into one of defensiveness as an act of self-preservation when you’re “attacked” (verbally or otherwise) for the limitations of what you’re capable of providing in terms of understanding and support.
Uttered words can be vicious, a crying out for help disguised as “I don’t need your help!”
It’s hard to imagine a condition that prevents one from exercising the most fundamental of rights accorded to us – choice. Where one’s thoughts would go to places that provide the most pain and hurt, and no matter how deep the spiral goes, the psyche would dwell on situations where one has been seemingly wronged or abandoned.
And it is that nonchalant notion that exercising one’s freedom of choice is intrinsic to everyone that ultimately prevents us from understanding and accepting the seriousness and prevalence of this affliction.
But the heaviest of weights to bear is GUILT
…that one moment of weakness where you opted for “tough love” in lieu of understanding can lead to irreversible consequences. Or a moment of inaccessibility could be construed as desertion.
Though the burden of that responsibility pales in comparison to what mental illness imbue on the sufferer, it is what friends and family live with everyday, where the good days are cherished and received with a sigh of relief, and the bad days are faced with ominous dread.
None of this is anybody’s fault. Casting blame is a fool’s errand.
It is not asked for…it is simply lived with.
It is the choice made by the “faithful few” who stayed behind – standing together with a loved one unfairly stripped by life of such a fundamental right.
Postscript: Knowledge is power. Here’s one article on how to help someone suffering from depression and/or bipolar syndrome. 15 Ways To Support A Loved One With Serious Mental Illness
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotlife at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.