Maureen Herman Profile picture
Jun 9, 2018 43 tweets 10 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
How can I explain #mystory to people who think #depression is sadness and #PTSD is something only war veterans get? Normal people rely on their moods being stable, their thoughts being their own, their long-term plans coming along in satisfying stages./1
Now pretend you get kidnapped, randomly, every few weeks. You’re dumped back into your life and have to somehow pick up where you left off. It takes time. Sometimes you’re just getting oriented when it happens again./2
Sometimes you go a long time without getting kidnapped, and your life is going really well, getting a lot done, and you think you’ll never get kidnapped again. Then one day, you do. For two weeks. /3
By the time you get back, all the progress you’ve made is unraveled by inertia, lost time, and confusion. This is what it’s like living with #mentalillness. At some point, you have to work around the kidnappings, or you’re going to destroy yourself making up for lost time. /4
You have to accept that your output is different than a person who doesn’t get kidnapped periodically. You don’t know why you’re being targeted for kidnapping and others aren’t. You have some friends who do, and you commiserate. /5
What if you had to hide the kidnappings from everybody or you’d lose your job, or your relationship, or your reputation? It is, after all, pretty embarrassing to keep getting kidnapped. I mean, you must be doing something wrong to attract the kidnappers, right? /6
Let’s take the analogy a step further. Someone might say, “Well, aren’t you lucky. You get to lie in bed and watch TV and someone brings you food--you don’t have to go to work when you’re kidnapped.” /7
Well, lying in bed because you want to, and lying in bed because you have no choice are two different experiences. One is restful, the other is torture. They are not days off. They are days missing, days lost, days stolen from us, and we have no control over when it happens.../8
...or when it will end and we can return to our lives. Lying in bed all day is boring as fuck and the tape playing in my head is agonizing. Now that my #mentalillness is treated and I am more stable, my experience is different, but I am not cured. /9
I don’t lose weeks, I rarely have severe #symptoms for more than 2 days in a row, and they’re far more infrequent. Still, once in awhile, a 2 week hit job comes, usually in the winter, when #SeasonalAffectiveDisorder comes into the mix, and there’s nothing I can do about it. /10
When I’m doing well for long stretches, some friends and family proclaim me cured, saying “you can go off your meds now!” as though that’s the goal, to get off meds. The well-meaning will become accustomed to my improved productivity.../11
...and when a mild episode comes, they will ask if you’re eating right, or wonder if you’re still sober. They don’t understand the constancy, the inevitability of my symptoms. That’s OK. But that’s why I am telling you what it’s like. So maybe more people would understand. /12
It’s exhausting not to be allowed to experience my life openly as it hits me, to hide my range of emotions to fall in the normal range when interacting with others. I’ll never be better or cured. When you ask me how I am, and I say, “Never better,” I am telling you the truth. /13
Without comprehensive #mentalhealth treatment and an informed support system, sometimes #suicide becomes the treatment of last resort. I think when the chasm between who you really are and who people think you are is too wide, that’s where true despair lives. /14
It just makes you feel so literally alone, being the only one who knows who you really are. The #loneliness of being unknown, that is the dullest, greyest, flattest, and most overwhelming of voids a human can experience. Prolonged periods of that dehydrate your soul. /15
They may be #biochemical, delusional, or situational, or some combination thereof, but what I do know is that at some point, it is literal agony. Short term gratification fills the gap. It gets you through. /16
When people tell you how much you’ve accomplished, and what great things lie before you, it sounds like the teacher talking in the Charlie Brown cartoons. Blah blah blah. It means nothing. Some of us have minds live with no sense of the long game. /17
So when people ask how someone could kill themselves when they had done such great things and had the world at their feet, I understand how they could. You don’t take any of that into account. It’s meaningless. /18
Your only reality is how you feel right now, and when it is that deafening void, and no drink or drug or relationship or amount of positive attention can mute it, it feels permanent. /19
Me and those like me, our lives aren’t linear. I don’t build on past successes or learn from failures & mistakes. I’m like a sieve, riddled with holes, life in all its emotional constancy leaking a rich, red blood, leaving me never full or satisfied always short of something. /20
On the plus side, I know I have a great capacity for emotion and empathy. And the barrage of my life experiences gave me an armor with which I face the inevitable adversities of a life lived exposed. I bring sensitivity and a large capacity for expression to the table.../21
...but I also leave it littered with the undone, the failures, the broken promises, and an inability to retain any constancy of well-being. I think it is in the hiding that the tragedies occur. The lack of a friend who will let you be a failure.../22
who’s not a cheerleader, but an objective spectator not rooting for either team. Someone who doesn’t need you to be “well” or happy, or cured or better or on a logical trajectory, but will allow you to tread water until you know if you want to drown or get out of the water. /23
I am damaged and imperfect and will never be better than I am right now. That is not concession or defeat, it is a wonderful acceptance of my right to be psychologically different than you are. Some took as much as they could. I do not see their lives as cut short.../24
...the best they could. It was literally the most they were capable of. But when I hear of someone who committed suicide, I don’t see them as having given up. I see a member of my tribe. I see them as having given it their all, and that was all they had left./25
I don’t think of their exits as failures or mistakes, no matter how tragic. I witness the magnificence of the life lived before its end, knowing they did the best they could. Their unique mind brought unique talents, perspectives, and humor. It’s what we loved them for. /26
I say let their whole life be a triumph, that they made it as long as they did, and accomplished as much as they did. I wish people would have compassion for the choices made--even the ones that cause others pain, that seem senseless and selfish.../27
...and the ones you think, “if only this,” or “if only that.” If it was drugs, addiction, illness, depression, lack of treatment or the wrong meds, have enough compassion to understand that they were seeking relief in that moment, and that what they did made sense for them. /28
None of this is to say that suicide is inevitable. But for those left behind with gnawing questions, pain & guilt, know that suicide was an option when they felt they were out of options. They feel they have no other source of relief.../29
...but their existence is something they can control, something they can end to find the peace you have watched them struggle for their whole lives. I know there are loving, well-meaning people around me, but honestly, I don’t feel like they understand when I do reach out. /30
They believe they must offer advice, solutions, or fix it for you. With every action and word they are saying, “It’s not OK for you to be like this. I can’t love you like this. You need to get better.”/31
I have some friends that I don’t have to avoid on days when I am capable of little or nothing. They won’t try to cheerlead me into motivation. They’re not driven by their own discomfort with my condition, needing me to change to suit their idea of how I should be. /32
Instead, they accept me as I am, even when I’m not doing well--especially when I’m not doing well. This is the most loving, healing thing a friend can do for a friend like me. It’s exhausting to pretend I’m well all the time, but if I share the truth with some people...
...I’m barraged with advice, cures, chiding, or encouragement, the din of non-acceptance. It’s a lonely and sorrowful thing to hear when I’m depressed or in psychological pain, because I know I have to add them to the list of people not to turn to at times like this. /34
Gradually, your circle of support gets smaller, as mine has the past two years. I know some of my friends want to help at times like this, but don’t understand how to help. It’s not their fault. This isn’t innate knowledge by any stretch. /35
Mentally stable people respond to encouragement, consequences, and logical solutions. But it just doesn’t work on some. In that case, chances are high they struggle with mental health stability, an addiction history, and/or trauma symptoms. /36
I have lost a lot of friends because of my disorders over the years, because of their frustration with their perception of my lack of progress or my failure to be symptom-free via their suggestions. I think it is worth pointing out how to be a friend to someone like me. /37
Because feeling unknown is a precarious existence, and largely unnecessary, I believe, if armed with a few tools of recovery, professional help, open-minded friends, and a steadfast commitment not to live in shame. Embracing failure and struggle doesn’t enable it. /38
It merely acknowledges its normalcy, and is accepting of mental health diversity. Being free of mental health disorders doesn’t make you more successful or better than me. It means you struggle far less to accomplish the same things, that everyday tasks are easy to you. /39
Someone with a physical disability isn’t a failure for not being able to use stairs the same way you do. They adapt. They get resources, they do the best they can. But they will never walk again. Your encouragement for them to walk will only make them feel horrible. /40
That’s why I had to detach from a lot of people I now miss. As my psychiatrist impressed upon me, mental health is not the state of being symptom-free. It is the state of acceptance and real-life adjustment to your symptoms. /41
I have never once had a plan to commit suicide. Never, ever, ever. But I have thought about the relief non-existence would bring almost daily since my twenties. It’s called suicidal ideation—a thought, and that’s where my brain goes, like the tires on a rutted road. /42
Can the default be changed? Yes, with great awareness, effort and treatment. But when I hear of someone who committed suicide, I don’t see them as having given up. I see a member of my tribe. I see them as having given it their all, and that was all they had left. /end

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