This week’s wanderings on the internet brought to my attention a blog post. It’s a very honest look at the author’s brush with depression. That kind of honesty is very much needed in a world where ‘harden up’ is a common response to depression. Breaking the lack of acceptance and understanding for mental illness is society is so important for people with mental health issues. Allowing mental health to be seen as legitimate, as just as real as physical illness, is a dream that every mental health patient I know has.
As someone sitting on the edge of a spiral into depression, though, on line stood out to me. After describing her rehabilitation, the author says,
I’m a better person now. I know how to cope better, and I am more conscious of protecting my own mental health – and that I might end up in that black hole again. I’m kinder, more empathetic, more enquiring, less quick to judgement. I’m probably a better journalist for my experience.
“I’m a better person now”. I understand what she’s trying to say, but a sick brain says ‘She’s a better person for having been ill, and you’re not. Mental illness hasn’t improved you, it’s just made you more pathetic and less able to cope with real life.’ Or even, ‘being unwell makes you a worse person than someone who is well. You’re less worthy because you’re sick’
It’s a single line, but it brings the message all crashing down for me (and possibly others, unless I’m the only one broken in this way). It’s not intended to hurt people who are unwell, but even in context it still stings.
Will I be a better person if I get better? Does that make me a worse person now? People will look at this and think ‘silly question! Of course you’re not a worse person!’ but it’s a real question for me.