Conditions of the mind can be incredibly hard to describe. How do you actually define anxiety when we live in a world of individuals who will experience the same things differently? This can make it very hard for other people to understand as well, for if something can't be described how can someone know what it is? In my opinion, this is one of the greatest problems those experiencing mental health problems face. The day after my manic episode was one of the hardest days I've had since my current condition began. It wasn't because my symptoms were particularly bad or that I had a lot of triggers that day, it was because I went from feeling like the most confident person on the planet, back to my 'normal' self. It was that all the people that saw me on that day perceived me to have shown drastic improvement, when in reality I displayed another symptom. I was disappointed and it hurt.
The topic of this post is about the ups and downs of mental illness. The good days and bad days, and how it affects personal relationships. When I find out that someone has depression, anxiety or has schizophrenia or some other condition, typically my first ingrained reaction is; "but they seem fine". Then I look at myself and wonder; "how do people see me once they know about my conditions?" I've worked as a barman for over three years, and not one of my customers ever knew prior to my telling them. When I work, I force myself to function and normally I don't have to try all that hard. I feel safe at work and I have a job to do. However, when I have a day off, what then? Well I'll probably go out drinking with a few friends to occupy my time, and to be that confident person beer allows me to be. Then there are the bad days. The days where I don't know if I can cope with people. The days I go to the supermarket only to walk straight back out because it's just too much. The amount of times I've made excuses for not going somewhere simply because I was having a bad day is ridiculous. The need to lie and make something up is upsetting to say the least I'm sure everyone can relate to this to some degree, but at the time I can only think I'm a liar and a coward.
The problem with the cycle of good to bad days is that when the bad days come, I don't feel that I can tell people. I'm so used to just getting on with things and trying to not let it bother me that when I do hit a wall, I can't tell anyone. How can I, the guy who talks to everyone on a night out, the guy who readily strikes up conversations with patrons with a smile suddenly turn around and say: "but people scare me"? At some point I began to ask myself; "Well which one is me? Am I confident or anxious?" I feel there is this person everyone sees, and there's another that shakes in a corner, praying not to be noticed.
Trying to explain to someone that I have social anxiety whilst pouring drinks in a busy bar feels like a lie. On the flip-side, when I'm anxious I desperately try to explain that this is not who I am, that really I am very confident. Again, I am still lying. In truth, I am both of these people. It is this dual personality that I hate, and that other people struggle to understand. Yes I have a condition, but it does not dictate my behaviour, except on bad days, then it does. Luckily, I do have some very good friends and family that are acquainted with both sides. However, it’s the people that are not, that are the ones that I struggle to talk to.
A tricky subject to talk about for me, but one that I feel should be addressed. Of course, the extent of this problem varies from person to person but I'd like to hear from you. Do you distinguish between a 'Normal' side and an unwell side? Do you ever question whether you really are ill or just making it all up? Do you ever feel guilty for having a good time? I know it’s not the most comfortable of topics, but then the point of writing this was to talk about the things that are not talked about enough. Leave a comment below!
You can read more from Jack over at his blog, A Jackals Voice