This week, not surprisingly, there has been a whole lot of talk on our screens about mental illness and suicide. Having those subjects ‘out there‘ is a good thing, but I can’t deny that unwise words and ill-formed arguments have not helped anyone, most especially those personally affected by the tragic death of Robin Williams, and also importantly, those people struggling with their own mental illness battles and suicidal thoughts.
I read a lot that I really wish I hadn’t read, but one article I came across perhaps summed up the issues for me more than ever. I have shared that article in several places but if you haven’t seen it I urge you to read the wise writings of Molly Pohlig:
When the Illness You Live With Becomes Breaking News
(I Bet Robin Williams Knew He Was Loved. Unfortunately, Love Doesn’t Cure Mental Illness)
One thing we perhaps know from this week, is that fame, fortune, a great sense of humour, laughter, family and perhaps above all, love does not cure mental illness. Robin Williams appeared to have all these things. Depression is not magically spirited away by the possession of such things, and the struggle with suicidal thoughts is not relieved. Oh, that it could be. Wouldn’t it be great if mental illness was so easy?
If love were enough, my depression would have been cured years ago.
If love were enough, along with maybe a plate of my favourite food of course, then perhaps my Anorexia would never have got the dangerous point it did, not to mention halting the permanent damage it did to my body.
If love were enough, I wouldn’t have struggled with chronic suicidal ideation for so long, several times plunging my body close to death.
If love were enough just maybe Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) would never have become the major stumbling block in my life that it is.
And perhaps finally, if love were enough then Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) would have been cured. But then for me PTSD was triggered into a perhaps worse state by the presence of love in my life. Now that’s confusing if you believe love will solve all.
Love certainly made the last 20 years of my life better than it would have been without it, but only because in spite of the pain I was in, I knew someone cared and perhaps I wasn’t quite as alone as I felt.
But love didn’t fix the pain for me. It didn’t cure my mental illness. I had a family surrounding me who loved me. It was hard for them to know that their love couldn’t fix me. I guess that hurt like hell.
As I have said before (An Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree), I tried very hard to prove for myself that my family didn’t really love me. They did. I can’t deny that. Some of them (at least) probably thought they could help me if they could just love me a bit more and provide for the needs I had. Maybe to sit down with me and watch a Robin Williams’ movie to make me laugh for a while. I should say that just because I might laugh, doesn’t mean I am cured either.
I had friends who loved me, and though I tried very hard to push them away, some of those people are still my friends today. No, they didn’t cure me, but they’ve stayed in for the long haul. Mostly they simply kept being there. But that didn’t cure me.
And then there was my marriage where for years a dedicated and caring husband tried harder than you could imagine to love my suffering away. No one could fault him for the effort he made during what were the worst years of my suffering. Strangely, the more he loved me, the more I kicked up my heels and pushed him away. He loved me so much yet it wasn’t enough to save or cure me. In the end was a broken marriage and still a mentally ill woman.
Why? Obviously this is just my opinion but I think the reason my ex-husband’s and others’ love, weren’t enough to cure my mental illness was because:
I knew that I was unlovable
It wasn’t that I felt unlovable, but that I knew I was unlovable. It is that certain. I knew in my heart. From my earliest days I knew I was unlovable, and actually I would go so far as to say that I knew this before I was born. That might seem extreme and you’ll have to do without the reasons this time. Some things are too private.
All the love around me meant nothing to me because I knew that it couldn’t be real, and I knew that eventually I would prove it to be false. There was no way (in my mind) that those people really could love me like they said. It just wasn’t possible. I knew.
It’s certainly not the fault of the people who tried to love my mental illness away. They didn’t understand that their love meant little because I was unlovable. I couldn’t have explained it if I tried and so instead, the more they loved me the more of a fake I felt. The more guilty I felt for not getting well. This was not something any of them could fix. It just was.
While I needed the love they were offering, it was never going to be enough to cure my mental illness. I can’t speak for others and I don’t pretend to. This post is about me, and not the thousands who suffer from mental illness. I can’t say if more love would have saved Robin Williams’ life. In spite of many contrary opinions voiced this week, I believe that only he could have said what, if anything, could save his life. And I suspect that he, like me, didn’t know if anything could cure us.
Mental illness affects different people differently. And what is needed to cure it, if indeed that is possible, varies. To generalize simply isn’t fair on anyone. I simply know that love was never going to cure me.
Thank you to those who tried to make love enough. I am lucky to have you on my side and I’m sorry if I disappointed you. There was nothing wrong with your love, it just was never going to be enough.
I saw a meme yesterday which said that love can cure everything. I don’t believe that. If only it were so easy.
“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”
― Elizabeth Wurtzel