Dealing with loss – the hidden cost of mental illness

Some loss you are taught to deal with by watching other people deal with it. The loss of a loved one, a pet, or a physical object that is of value to you is hard to take but there are examples to follow from family, friends, the media, and other sources. Other losses you aren’t taught or shown how to deal with them.

How do you deal with losing opportunities for success because your mind is unable to cope with day to day life? How do you deal with the feeling of slipping into a sadness that feels like it will never disappear? In what way should I grieve the missed chances at career growth, new connections with people, and the fun times I’ve missed out on because I was too scared to take a risk or even leave the house on a given day?

I don’t know how to express the loss of agency that comes from being unable to get out of bed in the morning and knowing you will have to use another annual leave day as sick leave. The annual leave day you wanted to use with your lover and best friend to go on a holiday in the countryside, relax, reconnect, and recharge. I don’t even know what words can be used to describe the heart wrenching pain of looking back over your life and looking at all the regrets that you have because you couldn’t get your brain to hold itself together any longer.

Yet people will look at me and tell me to smile more, go for a walk in the woods, and that antidepressants are the reason so many people are fucked up. Well meaning folk will look at me strangely when I say I was too afraid to pick up the phone and ask for help. Governments will decide to crack down on ‘welfare bludgers’ because they should go out there and get a job, even though they can barely go out there and order a cup of coffee due to anxiety or depression.

Please don’t tell me that mental illness is nothing. I have lost so much to this illness. I will fight for what I can but I know the future will contain more loss and more grief and more what ifs. I have to accept that otherwise I can’t go on. So I do.

Photo by Gattou – Lucie Provencher