Many people have asked me if I’m doing alright since my mother has passed, and truly I am coping in the best way that I know how. Something that mildly irritates me though, is that normally, whenever I say that I’m doing the best that I can, people tend to follow up with “Yeah, you seem like you’re doing really well”.
What does that mean exactly?
I know that it hasn’t been very long since her death, but am I supposed to be visibly upset in order to show that it bothers me? Should I be weeping uncontrollably in order for people to sincerely engage me in conversation and dig deep enough to figure out how I am actually doing?
I may say that I’m doing alright or that I’m coping, but honestly there’s a tempestuous storm of questions and emotions raging inside of me most of the time that no one but my wife and a very select few others are aware of. Sometimes I wonder if this is how my mother and many other people who struggle with depression and various other mental illnesses feel whenever people ask “How are you doing”?
People ask, but most of the time they don’t really want to know, it’s mostly just a greeting instead of an actual question. I wonder if my mom felt that way when she talked to people. I wonder if she felt as if she really couldn’t talk to anyone about what was going on inside of her mind because they didn’t actually care or because they may judge her. I hate the fact that she felt as if taking her own life was the only answer to her problems and that she didn’t have any help available to her.
I know that she was a wonderful woman and many other people have expressed that they knew that as well. What pains me is when individuals continue to say things like, “I can’t believe that she took her own life, she seemed so joy filled and happy”.
Mental health is not what it SEEMS.
Just because someone seems like they are doing alright doesn’t mean that they actually are. There is a significant amount of stigma associated with issues surrounding mental health and that makes it extremely difficult for those who are suffering to talk about what they are going through. They would rather suffer in silence than take the chance of speaking out and risk being ridiculed or judged out in the open. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2012 there were an estimated 9.6 million people that suffered from a serious mental illness in the U.S. and an estimated 43.7 million who suffered from any mental illness.
Given these incredibly high statistics, there is no telling who might be suffering from a mental illness right next to you. It could be someone at your place of work, someone in your own home, or you might be dealing with your own challenges on a daily basis. I am hopeful that more consideration will be given to discussing mental health issues out in the open and dismantling some of the stigma that surrounds it.
I have recently chosen to #StartTheConversation about mental health and mental illness in my own circle of influence strictly based on what I have experienced. While I understand that it may be too late to have the conversation with my mother, there is still plenty of time left to #StartTheConversation with someone else.
I hope that as we begin to #StartTheConversation people will begin to talk about mental health simply for what it is, because mental health is not what it seems.