Regardless of the fact that I have experienced quite a bit of turmoil in my short little life and am quite knowledgeable about mental illness, I still haven't a clue what to say when people tell me they are sick.
This week, I was introduced via email to a friend of a friend, who was recently put on anti-psychotics and wants to come off. My friend put us in touch so that this woman would get a chance to speak with someone who has gone through a similar experience. She's in the U.K. so there is an email in my inbox when I wake up and I try to email her back so that she wakes up to the same. The last line of her email was "I'm scared that this apathy will never end". I don't even know what to tell her, except that it will. In time. In fact, I promised her just that.
But I also know how hard it is when you're in a situation like that and people tell you to "hang in there" and that this will "all be over soon". I'll tell you right now, hearing those words when you're depressed just makes you more angry. But what else is there to say?
I get a lot of requests to council other people through tough times. I do some public speaking about the stigma of mental illness and the importance of getting help, and there is always someone waiting for me when I get off stage and they have a range of questions, but stripped down, everyone asks, "When will this go away, am I really going to be okay, and how the fuck am I supposed to get through this?"
What do I say? "I know." Just "I know." It sounds demeaning and I don't mean it to be, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I figure it is less of a slap-in-the-face than some of the alternatives. I do say more - in time. And if you sit down with me, I can walk you through a lot. People usually tell me afterward how great it is to have my support, but really, there aren't words I can say, and I feel completely helpless. Sometimes I just share the same space with them, so they don't feel as alone.
It is horrible, not fair, and extremely scary. It's debilitating and feels never-ending. It's lonely and dark.
I know. I really, really know.