What Everyone Ought to Know About Mental Illness

On the surface, mental illness is almost invisible. We can’t see emotions and we can’t see thoughts. It’s difficult for others to recognize when I’m feeling depressed from my physical appearance alone. 

Thoughts are simply me talking inside my mind — praising, celebrating, loving, worrying, stressing, arguing with and deriding myself.

With depression the nature of my thoughts and feelings change.  My internal dialogue becomes distorted at such a fundamental and all-encompassing level that it doesn’t feel like any illness is affecting me but more that I am just having different thoughts. I begin to hate myself and the mistakes I’ve made. I hate the direction I took at school and the degree I now have. I hate not having more friends. I hate not being in a relationship with someone I love.  I experience these negative thoughts in overwhelming intensity when I don’t need or want to.

Depression and other mental illnesses masquerade as authentic selves and it’s easy to lose hope of recovery when unable to feel it. It’s weird to think of having thoughts that aren’t really my own, but that’s exactly what happens with depression. It’s this shifting of thoughts at an internal level that make depression, and other mental health issues, so difficult to understand.

Many people seem to think that depression and other mental health issues are a result of pessimistic or otherwise negative views on life. I use to think this way before my depression was recognized and for far too long after. I couldn’t comprehend how deeply my thoughts had been affected.

Even during my recovery I would misunderstand what I was experiencing. I’d be thinking about life, everything I’ve experienced and why I have depression. I’d see a pattern in my behaviour and some seemingly fundamental flaw I had always overlooked. I’d feel like I’d suddenly figured everything out, that because of this knowledge I would from then on definitively feel better. But minutes, hours or days later, I would remember what I have isn’t a pessimistic stance on life, isn’t a bitchy attitude, isn’t regular ups and downs and it’s not a point of view I choose or wish to have; it’s a mental illness. It’s a repeated and prolonged skewing of negative thoughts and emotions at intensities that do not coincide with real life.

Mental illness is not a flight of the imagination, nor a reflection of the weakness in character — it is an illness of the brain, the epicentre of life.