I always hated this because sometimes there just aren’t any other ingredients for your lemonade. Sometimes it’s just lemons. There’s no sugar or water. I don’t believe that every cloud has a silver lining. I don’t believe that it’s always possible to turn a situation around and make it positive.
This isn’t pessimism. This is life with mental illness and chronic pain. I may be stronger in some situations because of what I’ve had to endure, but what I endure makes me weaker as well. I can empathize with people who have panic attacks and crying fits. I can offer them ideas on how to cope with them. This may make some people think “See, you can help people with it!” While they’re not wrong, I also still have panic attacks and crying fits that I can’t cope with much more than existing through them.
I can give people metaphors as to what mental illness is like but that doesn’t actually make my mental illness any better. It’s not a silver lining, it’s simply a more positive side effect than the inability to sleep on any sort of normal schedule or the soreness in my neck and shoulders from the anxiety. People say things about those of us with mental health issues being more creative, and while some of us are – during our depressions, our creativity might be completely stifled leaving us only with frustration. In these times, it is not a silver lining, it is another cloud.
Something many people know (but often fail to consider long term) is that both mental and physical illness can leave you completely drained. You could be passed out for hours or stuck like glue to the couch trying to find the energy to even look for the remote to the TV. There’s no upside to this. We’re not “lucky” we don’t have to work, we’re not working because we’re unable to function on that level.
I hear people say it all the time. “You’re so lucky, I wish I didn’t have to work.” It’s a hard thing to hear as someone that has not been able to work in a dozen years. The first month or so is filled with some sense of relief as you’re finally tending to yourself. By six months in, I wanted to be able to work again. I wanted to be able to have some sense of accomplishment, to be “productive” by society’s standards and my own. In year twelve, I cry sometimes because I’m afraid I will never be “productive” by these standards. I am viewed as lazy. I am viewed by some that are physically disabled as less deserving of help because my main issue is mental health.
I have mentioned my high brain pressure a few times. This is a physical problem, one that I am working on fixing. Having daily headaches that may or may not disappear when I pass out and wake next is exhausting and frustrating. Not knowing when things will get worse or if I will have enough help by then is frightening. When I was first diagnosed, I joined a facebook group with others that had the same problem. After a while posting and reading in there, I saw a post saying that it wasn’t fair how people who “only have depression” could get disability but they were having trouble with theirs.
I wanted to scream, I wanted to throw things. I was absolutely livid. I was denied my disability at first. It took two years to get my appeal. I couldn’t work for those two years, I had no income. I could not provide for myself and yet this person was judging my disability to be less than hers. I left a ranting response and left the group. You can’t quantify pain in this way. It’s not fair to decide that your pain is more deserving of help than another person’s because you can’t feel their pain.
This isn’t a competition. My problems are no less valid than yours whether we’re discussing my brain pressure or my mental health. Your problems are no less valid than mine, whether they are physical, mental, or situational (like your boss is a complete dick). Pain and frustration vary from person to person and it is valid. This holds whether you’ve experienced the same issues or not.
None of us react the same to pain nor to mental illness nor even simply stressful situations, like arguing with a significant other. I won’t judge you for your reactions, coping skills, life choices or what you do with your lemons. I am holding onto my lemons so I can squirt people in the eye that judge me for my way of life. Feel free to finish the title your own way in the comments.