I know that for a number of people, a decline in functioning is a symptom of their mental health issue. Declining invitations to go out with friends, remaining in bed instead of turning up to work, or failing to hand in school or uni assignments on time. Yet, I find it quite difficult to muster up sympathy and take it into consideration when someone finds themselves unable to do certain things due to their mental health. I feel like I should be more understanding, but I tend to feel rather impatient, irate and at times even resentful of such people even if I’d never outwardly portray it.
I can try reason it out and rationalise it; everybody experiences different symptoms of their mental health issues, there are varying levels of severity, people deal with things in different ways, some people are just able to attain a greater level of functioning than others no matter how severe it gets…but it still doesn’t overrule how I truly feel. I guess a lot of it is probably due to my past experiences as a child and the role it plays in my life now.
As a child I had huge anxiety issues and I would cry in complete terror and dread at the impending situation or task. Despite this, I was never allowed a reprieve. There was no gentle guiding me and holding my hand so I could tackle it in little steps. I was forced by my parents to confront whatever it was, and thrown in head first no matter how terrified I was and how much I didn’t want to do it. I suppose the lessons learnt as a child has done me some good in a way. It’s taught me that I must fulfil my responsibilities and commitments no matter how awful I feel. And for the most part, I do, asides from when I’m in hospital. I’ve never backed out on a friend when we’ve planned to meet up just because I’m feeling anxious or down. When you don’t have that many friends to start off with, you can’t exactly afford to blow off the ones you do have…! I remember overdosing on paracetamol one day and going out with a friend the next, as if nothing happened. In my three years total that I’ve been a uni student, I’ve never ever missed a compulsory class at uni nor a day of work because I felt too miserable to show up. I may have backed out of my volunteer work before, but for the most part I keep my commitments. Last year I even went from the ED after being treated for paracetamol overdose straight to a volunteering event I said I’d attend, despite looking and feeling like shit. I never had the luxury of backing out as a kid, and I don’t afford myself the luxury of doing that now. That is the reason why the feelings I have towards people who do this are somewhat harsh. My thoughts go something along the lines of “Dammit, I suck it up and get on with it…”
Unless I’m practically dying, there aren’t many acceptable excuses. One drawback of this is that it means when I really can’t keep it up and handle it all any more, I go to extremes to avoid having to do my duties. Simply ‘not feeling up to it’ is not a good enough excuse, and so, I make it that I do have a good enough excuse. I make myself fit my definition of ‘practically dying’ by taking an overdose and ending up in hospital. It’s only then I give myself a reprieve and allow myself time to breathe.
Another reason why this issue particularly irked me is because it came up in the consultation I attended today regarding a new youth mental health service being set up for early intervention for BPD or risk of psychosis. One of the criteria that must be met for a young person to access the service is that they must have experienced a marked decline in functioning. I’m already feeling quite disillusioned with mental health services at the moment and that just reminded me of how frustrating it is for people to assume I’m fine and don’t need help because I appear to be doing all the things I’m meant to be doing. “You’re very high functioning,” the doctor said as I was discharged from my last hospital admission, as if that was meant to make me feel better. I can see why having high functioning would be an advantage and an asset, but it does not mean everything’s perfectly fine and dandy. Even up until the very day I end up in hospital, I will still most likely be attending all my commitments. It would be nice if people didn’t assume certain things.