The Face of Mental Illness

It’s not just for people with a family history or people who have been through a trauma. 

It’s for me. It’s for you. It’s for our family, our friends. It’s for the woman sitting across from us on the train and the man who serves us in the shop. It’s for everyone and even the strongest, capable, talented, clever, witty or happiest can’t avoid it. It doesn’t discriminate and in the blink of an eye, your mental wellbeing can start to fail you and it’s not your fault. 

The Face of Mental Illness

I’ve suffered from anxiety for long enough to tell you that all the above is true. I was clever (ish), funny and outgoing. I had hundreds of friends, a fantastic social life – sometimes too fantastic when I would turn up for sixth form drunk the following morning. A string of boyfriends, some which last way longer than others, some which only stuck around for a few weeks. But I was never afraid to meet new people. I was never afraid of new opportunities. I was never afraid of anything. Until I was. Until anxiety struck and I became afraid of everything and you wouldn’t be able to recognise that girl I described above.

Now, 4 years, 2 counsellors and hundreds of anxiety attacks later, I still suffer. My struggle has changed and in some aspects I manage myself better than others and better than I did before but the underlying fact is that I still have anxiety and sometimes, it’s so bad, I feel like that’s all I am.

If you saw me on social media and didn’t know my story which I’ve spoke about here, I doubt you would even consider the fact that I had a mental health problem. In between my happy tweets, my excessive emoji use and my sarcastic comments, there’s a girl that sometimes can’t even bring herself to wash her hair. A girl who sometimes struggles to leave the house or go in a shop or drive a car – even though I’m quite capable of doing all of those things. A girl that sometimes lays in bed sleeping until half past 2 because she just can’t bring herself to get up and have to face the day or a girl that cries non stop for hours over everything and nothing all at once. But that girl will more often than not, be around on Twitter, chatting and smiling and sharing photos of those rare good moments in her life to ensure people that I do have a life, despite the fact sometimes I feel like I’m just crawling through, trying to survive.

So if you’re looking for the face of mental illness, look around you. It comes in all different shapes and sizes, colours and ages. Various states and intensities. It’s the dark cloud hanging over someone’s head when they should be feeling but instead all they feel is numb. It’s the unwanted adrenaline pumping through someone’s body, making their heart beat speed up and making their palms sweat just because they have to get on a bus or a train. It’s the dread someone feels when they think too hard about the future and it makes them want to crawl into a hole and die.

Mental illness doesn’t have a face. It’s faceless. It’s heartless. It doesn’t care. It’s that unwanted guest at a party. The feeling that there’s something else, nestled in every part of your being, that shouldn’t be there. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, anorexia, bulimia, schizophrenia – they’re all parasites. And they won’t beat us. 

This post is for everyone suffering with a mental illness – whatever type, however intensely. You’ve got this. 

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20 thoughts on “The Face of Mental Illness

  1. *Claps*

    Well said Jenny! This is something many people forget! Like physical health every single living person has mental health, it’s just a matter of how well it is.

  2. I’m sorry you suffer from this terrible illness I can relate as I am the same. Although I suffer with depression not anxiety. I th I k it helps if people can talk. I hate it when people have the attitude of well you have no reason to be depressed as if that is going to help. I hope you go through more good days than bad xxx

  3. Jenny, you are a total star for writing so openly about this. I absolutely know how you feel — we put up a face on social media so we don’t become total bummers, but it still requires so much effort to get through the day. My inbox is always open if you need someone to talk to. xx

  4. It is good to remember that everyone has days like the ones we hate, and that some of them handle it no better than we do… I always dread the feeling that heralds its arrival, but glad that I can still fight my way out of it.

  5. Thank you for being so open. Your courage in being so eloquent is inspiring. Mental illness can be a stealthy foe. I wish you the very best for the future; sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other or making a cup of tea is a great achievement.
    Take care

  6. The lines: “So if you’re looking for the face of mental illness, look around you. It comes in all different shapes and sizes, colours and ages.” Gave me goosebumps. I’ve been suffering with anxiety for a long time and it wasn’t until I lost something recently that I realised I need to get a hold on it and not let it win anymore. I’m pushing myself to ignore its presence, to do more and see more and so far so good – of course there are bumps in the road, but this time I’m dusting myself off and pushing on 🙂

  7. Reblogged this on SpookyMrsGreen and commented:
    I might not have spoken about my own mental health challenges recently (my struggle to help close family and friends), but it is always there, a demon that lurks and dances in the shadows. These words ring true and solid. We will not back down!

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  9. This is a great post! I have Bipolar one, and the anxiety attacks are the WORST. I have even ended up in the ER because of anxiety attacks. My DR tried all different kinds of meds. Finally tried Neurontin which is a pain pill but is used off-label for anxiety. That has stopped the attacks for now.

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