I am inspired to write to you today, again on the topic of mental illness, because of a Vlog my friend posted on YouTube. Her blog answered the question lots of people seem to ask a person with a more or less permanent mental illness: Why Don’t You Get A Job? I started to comment on her blog and realized I had a lot more to write on this topic and related issues to it.
First, it is essential to realize that anyone who has had any type of long term illness wakes up one day from the dream they called their life to the realization that they are a sick person. Accepting that you are sick can take a long time for some people and a shorter time for other people depending on the outlook of their sickness. Facing death I think would be extremely hard for some people to face, but facing mental or physical disabilities can also be a difficult sentences to live with. I have not resigned myself to the fact that I will be sick forever, but the possibility exists – I could always be this sick. But then you learn to live with your life the way it is and you blossom and grow into life no matter what your situation. But there always certain things for a person with long term sickness will have to give up, ways of life other people may very well take for granted.
Physical illnesses can have terrible effects on people such as when my Grandpa became very sick with emphysema he had to go around everywhere with an oxygen tank. He could no longer walk even a little distance because his lung capacity was so greatly diminished. So he gave up his ability to breathe on his own, his ability to walk around on his own, and his energy levels were greatly decreased because it took a great effort for him to breathe. But for a person with mental illness, what they are giving up in their lives just to get through life, may not be as visually apparent.
In my case, since I can only function between 3 to 5 hours a day and not every day I have given up everyday practices that most people wouldn’t think twice about doing. I cannot do more than one or two activities in a day and only for a shortened amount of time. I can barely manage to go out 2 days in a row and usually only in summer and spring when there is more sunlight in the sky and I have more energy due to this fact.
I have lost my awesome memory and have trouble remembering things that were immediately mentioned. I have given up memorizing things 2 nights before a test, it usually takes me a week or more now to commit information to long-term memory for a test. I gave up driving because I was not a safe driver on the road because cars around me felt as if they were going to fast and I do not have the same reflexes and ability to pay attention that I once did. In addition, I often cannot take the bus both ways because energy and motivation wise I cannot handle the noisy bus. Especially on the way to somewhere, the bus wears me out.
I have also lost the ability to shut out every little noise and just concentrate on what I am doing. I am better at this then I used to be but sometimes the lull of voices or sounds in a space can be become quite painful and overwhelming. I no longer have the ability to physically exercise and work out hard. I loved the endorphins I used to receive from exercise but I just cannot do it anymore. I am not lazy, I get sick or worn out all day. I have also given up the idea that I will be able to stay a strong fit woman, one day I know this life without exercise will catch up with me even though I eat a portioned healthy diet.
I have lost a life of ever feeling energetic. I never feel energetic. I am fatigued when I get up in the morning and I am greatly fatigued when I go to sleep at night. Most of the time lately, I am tired too and this feeling of tiredness never goes away either. I also gave up being able to trust my moods as an indicator of how I am really feeling. Sometimes I am feeling down because of my depression and not because I am sad or having trouble with something.
Additionally, I have at least for now, given up on the idea of living on my own because I cannot do all the things I need to do on my own doing such chores as grocery shopping, cooking supper, and cleaning well because of my energy levels and low motivation. I also cannot afford to live alone. I think if I live on my own I will have to be married or in a relationship. I have also given up ever thinking I will be able to make a decent income in my life. Although, I am blessed to have Disability through insurance and many disabled people don’t have that, all I will ever make is $23 000 in a year and I think even if I manage to work half time some day, I don’t think I will be able to make more than that as my disability will claw back what I make at work. And really, if I am honest I have lost the ability to have a job because I cannot work even half time every day or 3 hours twice a week even. I’m stuck even when it comes to volunteering.
Now I don’t mean to complain. I’m just telling you the realities of my life and perhaps, the realities of many people on disabilities’ lives. My only hope to make money would be able to work at home and structure my job around the times I am feeling well – that’s one reason I would love to be a professional writer. But even the times I feel well change according to season and day and week. I am content in my life and I hope you are in yours, but if you ever wonder why someone with a disability isn’t working or contributing more to society, now you have some idea of why.
It is especially important to have empathy where people with long term illness are concerned. We all get sick in our life at one time or another. Some of us get sick a long time, sometimes our entire lives. It is not a perfect world and as long as it’s not, people will be sick and some people may not even seem to be sick such as myself or my friend who Vlogs.
In to To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee Atticus Finch says: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” We all read this book in junior high or high school but I think we forgot to take the important message away from it’s pages. No matter what any person can do or can’t do, no matter what color skin they have, no matter who they are, we need to empathize with them and get to know what it feels like to be them inside. Only then can we break down the walls and the stigmas people have with mental illness and other important issues in society.