Finding Unity In a Battle Against Mental Illness

Hello, my lovely friends!

Long time no talk — I’ve missed you! I wish I could have been more present on IIB, but it’s been a really rough couple of months in my family, and college is a lot of hard work. I wish I could write for you every day of every week of every month for the rest of my life, but for now we’re just going to have to look forward to a summer full of new content. I’ve made some changes in my life, and the projects that I take on, in order to prioritize IIB alongside my schoolwork next year. It’ll be a good change!

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After a calendar year full of both a lot of great things, and a lot of horrible things happening both in my life and in the world, I feel the urgency more than ever to talk about things that matter. This can be on any scale, whether it be talking about something as significant as gun violence in the United States, or something as run-of-the-mill as what sunscreen I wear on my face in the summer. I’m excited to dive right in.

“In My Blood”

Today I want to talk to you about a great tune that came out a few months ago and the meaningful message behind it. This lovely song I’m referring to is “In My Blood,” by Shawn Mendes. Since I think I have fantastic taste in music *insert hair flip,* I’d like to refer y’all to my Indira’s Inner Beauty Spotify Playlist. It’s got a bunch of my favorite jams on there, specifically all of the ones that I share on my Instagram story (more shameless self promotion, but yes – do go give homegirl a follow on Insta). I share some of my favorite music from various genres on this rad playlist that gets new additions on a weekly basis. Music means a lot to me and is a massive part of my life, so I’m working on finding a good way to share that with you all. Also, Shawn is coming out with a new album tonight (May 24) at midnight, Eastern Standard Time; I cannot wait! “In My Blood” will be featured on this album.

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In this song, Shawn gives his listeners a glimpse at his struggles with anxiety, and seemingly depression (although he doesn’t explicitly state the latter). I think that this song is a masterpiece, but it specifically has a unique value because this conversation on mental illness is being sparked by not only a teenage heartthrob who could easily conceal any unglamorous parts of his life from the public eye if he so chose to, but by a man in an age where men are shamed into a lot of toxic aspects of societally engrained “masculine behavior.” (Wow, I like super long run-on sentences apparently). While in his interviews he doesn’t explicitly talk about mental illness, anxiety, or depression, the way that other artists like Demi Lovato have, I think the song lyrics speak for themselves in their simple but powerful message. Here are the pre-chorus and the chorus.

“Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing
I’m overwhelmed and insecure, give me something
I could take to ease my mind slowly
Just have a drink and you’ll feel better
Just take her home and you’ll feel better
Keep telling me that it gets better
Does it ever?
Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in
Sometimes I feel like giving up
No medicine is strong enough
Someone help me
I’m crawling in my skin
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t
It isn’t in my blood.”
Throughout the first verses of the song, Shawn talks about experiencing a lot of strong, negative, and difficult emotions. I think it’s brilliant that he inserted the typical responses from a lot of people who don’t believe in the reality of mental illness. I’m still kind of astonished that there are human beings who believe that conditions like depression and anxiety do not exist. Being told to just have a drink, or (one that I’ve heard a lot) just go work out is a common comeback that people living with a mental illness have to hear. If it were as simple as having a drink or a run, we’d all be fine. But that’s not how it is, and we’re not all fine.
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It hurts me when people (specifically people who I love) treat mental illness as if it were a figment of the imagination, and something as easily fixable as a paper-cut or cold sore; it discredits the struggle I have been through, and the work that I put in every day of my life to live as best as I can in whatever state my mental health is. That’s a long chat for another day, but Shawn alluded to this struggle quickly and well by answering “keep telling me that it get’s better, but does it ever?” My answer to that question he poses would be a firm “yes,” but it doesn’t get better by just simply drinking problems away and working out a lot.
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Living With A Mental Illness

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I don’t want to just analyze the lyrics as a text any further, though. I want to get into what the outcomes of the emotions that this song evokes should be. I’m not a psychology professional, I’m just a person who goes through the struggles that mental illness presents. I took 2 semesters of psychology in high school, and 2 semesters in college, but I am by no means a professional. Please keep that in mind as I share my story, thoughts and advice.
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I’ve lived with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember vividly. I’ve also gone through turbulent struggles with disordered eating. 6 years after a formal diagnosis, it’s still difficult for me to say these words out loud or even type them on a computer screen. That being said, I want to talk about the realities of living with this condition, but that’s another post for another day. I want the scared young girls, children going through what I went through, to know that they are not alone and that somebody does empathize with them. I want people reading this who love somebody who struggles with a mental illness to leave this post equipped with knowledge and tools to be the best supporter to their loved one that they can be.
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Living with depression and anxiety has affected my life in pretty much every sense. For me, anxiety is a product of depression. Depression was always the mother kangaroo, – bigger and more present – and anxiety the baby joey in the little pouch that just came along for the ride and peeked out whenever it felt like it. There is a lot more to my experience that I will go into more detail with in another post. Not everybody who experiences these two conditions experiences them like this. The only way to know someone’s experiences is to ask them.
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When somebody who does not go through mental illness themselves tells me to just shake it off with a good work out or a shot of tequila every once in a while, my heart breaks. I’ve gotten comments like this from teachers when I was very young, peers, friends, and even some family members. It is truly breaks my heart that people invalidate the struggle from an outsider’s perspective with both hands comfortably in their pockets instead of being extended out with intentions to help.
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As I have grown older and faced more challenges, I’ve realized that this is a cross that I have to bear. There’s no getting rid of this struggle for me, and being angry about the fact that this is my reality will do absolutely nothing good for me. This is my reality, and nobody gets to invalidate that or treat me inadequately because of it, but there is no feeling sorry for ourselves here. The message in Shawn’s song really rings true right about here. He sings, “sometime I feel like giving up, but I just can’t. It isn’t in my blood.” And that is how we need to approach our situation as people who fight mental illness.
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Through the trials and tribulations that life has put on my plate, I’ve learned that I am so strong. As a woman, as a biracial person, as a daughter of immigrants, as a person with a mental illness, as a person living in a body that society deems unattractive, and as all of the other things that I am, I have overcome a lot of adversity. Many of us have overcome a lot of adversity. It is not in my blood to give up on myself or let this illness defeat me, or get the best of me. The same goes for you. I wish I had always had this mentality, but I haven’t. Listening to this song really reinforces these values for me, so I hope that doing so has a similar effect on you.
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Another big theme in the song is finding support from loved ones through difficult times. I have learned that the healing and the hard work has to come from within yourself. I’ve become uncomfortable expecting anybody to do things for me, because the reality of the situation is that I have to deal with my struggles myself, or with the help of somebody who went to school to study psychology. Nobody can figure out our emotions for us. That all being said, having a strong network of support from loved ones is essential in life, no matter what the circumstance is. We need these people not to solve our problems for us, but to provide support along the way. This can be done in so many forms. Whether is be a hand to hold, a listening ear, a nugget of wisdom, or a kind bit of reassurance, we all need a team behind us of people who love us. This is what will make the hard times bearable – having allies.
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I am beyond grateful to have such amazing people in my corner. I have a handful of family members and a few friends in my life who I consider to be indispensable members of “team Indira,” and I like to think that I am a member of their support squads as well. Shoutout to my mama, though, for being the captain and MVP of this team. She needs approximately 40 million gold medals for everything she’s helped me through.
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Helping A Loved One Through Mental Illness

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So, if you are reading this and you love somebody who fights a mental illness, you may be asking: “Indira, that’s great and all, but what can I do when my loved one experiences an anxiety attack or depressive episode?” I’m very glad that you asked. Now, I’d like to reinsert the fact that I am, indeed, not a mental health professional, just somebody who deals with a mental illness. One thing that I always suggest when asked this question is to get the person a glass water. I don’t know if this really helps, but I think that it’s always a good start.
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While that piece of advice was rather generic, the two things that I think you can do to best help your loved one are to ask how you can help, and to educate yourself on their illness. As I said earlier, the only way to know what somebody is feeling or what somebody needs is to ask them and hear it from them. Asking “what can I do to help you?” demonstrates that you are present in that moment with the intention of being on their team. The other thing that you can do is learn more about the illness that your loved one is dealing with and what it entails. When you know more about the realities and implications of the illness, you can act in an informed (and hopefully more productive) manner. Education on mental illness is so important.
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I really like the Green brothers’ “Crash Course” series on YouTube, and specifically the Psychology edition. I think that they are so informative in a palatable manner that we can all understand. Here are the links to the videos discussing anxiety disorders, depressive and bipolar disorders, trauma and addiction, schizophrenia and dissociative disorders, eating and body dysmorphic disorders, and personality disorders. Education from experts is always good, so I hope that these videos are useful to anybody reading this in search of guidance. Just remember that people are people, and not every part of somebody’s condition will be just how it is described in a textbook; their experience is still valid.
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To the people who, like me, are battling mental illness – we are fighting this battle together. I’m not going to say that it is okay, because having to go through this is not okay. But I will say that we are so brave, we are going to make it through this, and we will find a way to live our best lives despite living them with this extra challenge. We all have to fight for change so that soon we can live in a world determined to help people like us succeed and live happily. Let’s fight for this in utter unity.
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With so much love,
Indira Midha

 

 


HSM gif courtesy of Tenor, Shawn Mendes gif courtesy of Clevver, Mental Illness gif courtesy of Gifer, Adam Levine gif courtesy of Tenor, Barack Obama gif courtesy of Gifer, Michelle Obama gif courtesy of Giphy.


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