It’s a funny thing isn’t it, illness. When we come back to work or someone sees you for the first time they always assume your illness was physical (unless they know otherwise of course)
Nine times out of ten similar phrases are used “Oh there are some nasty bugs going around” or “Mr Jones has been ill all week too” etc etc. Which on the face of it the people are just being kind trying to make you feel better (which you don’t have to if you are ill you’re ill. No apologies needed.) Or they are trying to find something positive to say or just connecting with you with some kindness.
Awkwardness is the main thing I guess. People don’t want to pry but they don’t want to seem as if they don’t care. It’s like when you pass someone in the street. The conversation often goes like this;
“Hello, How are you?”
“Good! Thanks, You?”
No one actually stops and no one is really bothered about the answer it’s just connecting with people and being kind, sociable. It’s what we do and by no means do I mean people don’t care at all or wouldn’t take the time to stop speak and listen, I just mean we are busy, especially in work.
I’m rambling. Where am I going with this?
Well, what if they illness isn’t physical?
There was no coughing and nose blowing, sore thoughts and medication? No wrapping up in a duvet on the sofa with a hot honey and lemon concoctions wonder how people can watch the daytime drivel called TV?
What if the actual symptoms involve physically not being able to leave the house? Spending hours upon hours trying to drown out paranoia and self-doubt by using that so call daytime “entertainment”
Standing in your porch way frozen to the spot as you build the courage to open the door using all the will in the world (along with some erratic finger counting that you seem to have developed during this time of stress)
What if you sit looking out your window longing to be normal? Longing to just be able to go about your everyday life without a care. Without irrational panic or fears of the unknown or what is worse, the know.
What if you can’t stand the thought of being looked at or of people staring or making eye contact.
What if you have to bottle all that up and pretend because it has come to the point that you have to return to the real world you have enter the place that fills you with the most dread although you love what you do there?
What if you stand there responding to comments or questions such as “Are you better”, “You look well”, “Really glad to see you back” knowing this is all genuine kindness but the voices in your head are telling you they are doing it because that what you should do? They are being kind just because that’s normal? You are not worth their time and it wouldn’t make a difference if you were here or not. No one is actually happy to see you back. It is just what people do.
There are no symptoms, externally to this illness. What you might see it has a well put together, well-groomed man or women. Smiling, laughing and telling you they are better, as that is what you want to hear.
What if the answer to “Are you better?” was with the truth?
“No, I am on a three month waiting list and I am half way through but I’ve heard nothing yet. I feel pressured to come back to work because I was guilt tripped in a meeting, but that could just be my paranoia. I was diagnosed with serve depression and anxiety but I am one of the unlucky ones because I can walk the walk and talk the talk. Put a smile on my face and make everyone think I’m ok. The reality is I stand at my window every morning trying to work out the lies from the truth in my own head. How are you?”
What do you think the response would be?
Mental illness and any illness without obvious signs are one of the last Taboo in this world. It shouldn’t be people should be able to say, They want, if they choose, to say “I have an ongoing mental illness (or anything for that matter) that is getting better. I have my up days and my down days. I do really struggle just to hold this conversation with you. Thank you for asking, though. How are you?”
Scary thought. People like to gossip. Well, that what we think. People don’t like to be seen as the crazy one. Crazy being a derogatory word for mental illness.
What if people didn’t judge and get judged? People shouldn’t be. No judgment. Acceptance that sometimes it’s not just a bug going around and that is OKAY.