Let’s start with a fact: mental illness is a liar. It will warp your brain until it tells you viscious untruths that will feel like the most real truths of all. And while mental illness itself is a truth – a real, life-altering thing that isn’t just ‘all in your head’ as people so often (and unhelpfully) claim – what it tries to convince you of is not true.
But, remembering that the claims depression makes to you aren’t true is not always easy. If someone tells you the Earth is flat, you can just tell them to their face that that is a lie; you could even regail them with an endless stream of evidence to prove their falsity if you wanted to. But how do you tell your own brain it’s lying to you? What do you say to convince it to change?
Though it might not be the easiest thing to do the first time you attempt it, countering every lie with a truth can help. You might not believe the truth yourself at first, but keep saying it anyway; the more the little nuggets of reality are repeated, the easier they will be to believe. And, eventually, they will be so undeniably true, the lies will cower in their shadows. Eventually, with practise, you might not even question the truths at all: they’ll become the honest answers they always have been.
Lie No. 1: You are not enough.
Truth No. 1: You are enough and you are enough – more than enough – as you are, no changes, recovery, fixing, magic cure-all needed. Just you. Right now. Absolutely enough. Does that mean you will satisfy everyone? No. You won’t. For some folks, you might be too much. You might be not enough of one thing, or too much of another, or just different to what they want or need at that moment. But that is not a reflection on your adequacy. You are made up of millions of cells, all working so cleverly together that I can’t even begin to try to explain the wonder of it. You work. You are breathing and living and doing all of that despite pain and struggle and questions. Not enough? You are so much more.
Lie No. 2: You are a failure.
Truth No. 2: You might, actually, be failing today, or have failed in the past, or are going to fail at something at some point in your future. Because we all fail. But failing at something – small thing or big thing – does not make you a failure. In fact, failing at something and still standing might just make you a tryer, a succeed-er, a don’t-think-you-can-keep-me-down-you-son-of-a-bitch hero of stubborness. But failure? Nope. Honey, what you are is a fighter.
Lie No. 3: You are unloved.
Truth No. 3: Oh my word are you loved. Seriously. Secret time: this is the lie I struggle with the most. Weekly, sometimes daily, I question whether I am loved, whether I matter, whether the people who show me care are in fact just showing me pity. My brain tells me they just feel sorry for me, that they are just kind people, that their help is mere politeness. I can spend days wishing someone would tell me, honestly and truthfully and simply, that they love me. And wishing – wishing so hard – that I would believe them without question. But here’s what I have learnt: people do not have to show you kindness. They do not have to help you or hold you or play a part in your healing. They choose to do that. And they choose to do that because they love you. Sometimes that looks like a hug on a bad day, sometimes it looks like a brief message to say hi, and sometimes it looks like distance and quiet because they love you so much they don’t know how to help and it hurts them to see your pain.
I have never known any human in this life who is not loved by anyone. Believe me: you are loved.
Lie No. 4: No one would care if you disappeared from planet Earth.
Truth No. 4: Someone – more than one person – would be gutted if you were no longer here. On a truly dark day I told a friend no one would care if I wasn’t around anymore. For every person who was important in my life I had a response: they would be fine, they have their girlfriend; they would be okay, they have their partner; they’d not be sad for long, they’ve got their bestie. But what she taught me, and what I say to you now as truth, is that that does not reduce your importance in their lives. People can love more than you, just as you love more than one person, and the love is not reduced. We have big hearts, us human beans, and hearts beat for you. Your presence matters: don’t go anywhere just yet.
Lie No. 5: You are alone.
Truth No. 5: You are not alone. You might be lonely, that’s real. You might feel alone or isolated sometimes. You might wonder if anyone truly understands how you feel. You might wish you had someone by your side when you don’t. But you are not alone. Seriously, get real for a moment: take your phone in your hand and look at those names and numbers. There might be twenty, fifty, more. Maybe someone of them wouldn’t pick up if you called at 2 a.m. But there are forty-nine others to try and several of those who will pick up when they see your name appear on their screen.
There are over seven billion people on the planet. Me and Dumbledog are here – we are with you; you are not alone.