Accountability: You, or the mean guy in your head?
Sometime last year, while I was working on my dissertation, I came across an article that attributed the cause of some mental illnesses to the sufferers’ actions. It had something along the lines of “mental illnesses do not have any chemical or biological causes….” I don’t quite remember.
What I do remember is how I was ratioed on twitter after I shared that statement in quotes without backing. Believe me, it is not something I want to experience ever again! The comments were ruthless! And I am not one to fight online to be very honest, if you have a grievance- cash me outside- let’s talk man to man because I am not about to argue with someone who probably hasn’t showered for days.
I acknowledged how harmful the post was to persons battling different forms of mental illness, how it perpetuated the ongoing stigma and recognized that I could’ve better articulated my words to put the point across. I don’t think I spoke about mental health for a very long time after that incident because boiiii?!!
Nonetheless, that article had something to say. Often time, I wonder if I just have bad manners and that is what led to the depression or if it is the depression that caused the bad manners- you feel me? Much as there are instances where I was minding my business and my mood suddenly turned for the worst, I also recognize that I have a part to play in ensuring I do not get to the darkest point.
There are customary questions asked during counselling and therapy, majority of which base on the kind of life you’re leading. Do you drink or smoke? Any life altering events that have recently happened? Are you in a relationship? What kind of work you do and so on.
I am ready to catch all the heat for saying this but sometimes — particularly if you’ve been down this road more than once — you know that there are certain activities you cannot carelessly indulge in. I know it gets exhausting to lead a guarded life where in you’re constantly avoiding pleasures and coming off wimpy but its either you or the mean guy in your head.
If you had asthma for example, you would ensure to stay warm, carry your inhaler, avoid dust and heavy chores to counteract episodes because you know how grueling the pain is and wouldn't want to trigger it. In light of the fact that certain activities negatively affect your mood, wouldn’t you avoid them all together? Or better yet, stay prepared?
Healing is not definitive- you only get better at prevention which brings me to this…
People do not choose to be depressed. The same empathy you had towards the asthma analogy is the same one you should convey to this very real illness. The brain is an organ that can malfunction like any other. The fact that your asthmatic friend has all these safety measures in place to prevent attacks but still gets them anyway is the same way people have done the ABC's of ensuring there are no more episodes but still get sick anyway!
Speaking from experience, you could be in the middle of all your answered prayers and well curated daily routines, eating right, exercising, drinking three beers once a week, avoiding weed, going to therapy, praying, getting new hobbies and doing everything other thing you have been advised to try and still feel like soggy cereal!!
Soggy cereal is a close enough description of how a low mood feels like for me.
With time, I have reluctantly embraced one cliche fact, that no body is coming to save me. People can only do so much but it is up to me to have control of the things I can control…do I make sense? Que sera, sera! (What will be, will be) But don’t over sera because the repercussions are low-key destabilizing aka strike a balance between YOLO and a healthy mind.
At the core of your being, you know your capabilities and what consequences you can shoulder. You know when something feels right or wrong. You know when to apologise and when to let actions be closure. You know when you’re spiraling and when you’re not.
It would be nice if people acknowledged that you were not okay when things hit the fan but it won’t happen. Some will say you’re using it as an excuse so it is up to you, to be accountable for your actions and not let temporary emotions control your day to day.
Give yourself some grace, ask for help when you need it and continue to take care of yourself. Keep On Living!