I’ve been grazed by mental illness on more occasions than I thought I would growing up in a relatively normal, middle-class, mid-west suburb. But that’s just it. Mental illness doesn’t limit itself. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Mental illness knows no race, gender, religion, or sexuality. It touches so many of us – but never in the same way. It’s full of self-doubts, but never doubt itself.

Have I battled mental illness? I guess not, not directly anyway. But that’s the thing I don’t think we talk about enough. I don’t think we talk about mental illness enough, but we also don’t talk about the spectators. The people who watch these mental health obstacles transform the ones we love.

I’m not here to out anyone’s mental health. I don’t think it’s necessary, warranted, or cool. So I’m going to keep the intertwining personal stories mum – but I am going to share my experience as a spectator. A perspective that I don’t think is shared often enough. Maybe because we feel guilt for having a deeply emotional reaction to the circumstances or because we feel the need to be strong in the face of struggle.

Mental illness has been in my life one way or another – through one person or another – for the greater part of a decade. I’ve seen depression. I’ve seen anxiety. I’ve seen a few other things. And I can still picture the really hard days – because not every day has been hard – but I can picture the days I felt like nothing would change. I can still feel the silence that pierced my heart when I would think of the present, future, and past. I can still imagine the frustrations I felt – that I know they felt too. The constant questions of why and how and who can we tell – who can relate.

I wish I had known that this was relatable. I wish I had known this was an experience I could share with all too many.

But until now, I’ve never really talked about it. I’ve maybe mentioned it a few times in passing to friends and made it seem like NBD – but it is a really big fucking deal. And I don’t want to play into the taboo anymore because talking about it helps. It creates an understanding. It links me to everyone else out there fraught to find peace in the chaos.

And peace can be found. Or at least worked toward. I’ve been working toward it for a while now, but I think I’m starting to slowly unveil what that looks like. I’m not a mental health professional. I’m not anywhere near an expert. The best I can do is share the lessons I’ve learned with you and hope that you feel a little less alone….



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