Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Unsent Letters: Dear Norms

Dear Norms,

I'm writing you this letter because there's a few things we need to get straight. For a start, you might be wondering who these Norms are and if you're one of them. Norms are people who haven't had an atypical brain function diagnosis (i.e. depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar, PTSD, cognitive issues, etc etc). They're a bit like muggles, if people with mental health issues were wizards. I've addressed this letter to all of you because you might be guilty of some of the things I'm going to talk about without even realising it. So here's a list of things you need to know/understand

1. Just because my illness(es) don't produce physical symptoms you can see (like bruises, broken bones, hair falling out etc) that doesn't mean my illness isn't real. I can one hundred percent guarantee you that while it is classified as a mental illness there are physical symptoms that I deal with every day and this is on top of the emotional and psychological symptoms I'm trying to manage.

2. I don't care what your personal opinion about my illness or the medication I take is. If you think depression or ADHD are made up things that people use as excuse for their bad behaviour keep that opinion to yourself. Hearing all about how you think I shouldn't be taking medication because it's a cop out or the easy way or unnecessary because there's nothing wrong with me just serves to make it harder for me to keep the negativity and self doubt I live with every day under control

3. Before you seek to educate me on why I should realise that my diagnosis is just an excuse stop and think about how the conversation you're about to have would sound if you were talking to someone with cancer. Would you ever tell someone that you think cancer is just made up by doctors to explain why their patients keep getting sick?! Would you ask someone with cancer if they've tried "just not having cancer"?! If you wouldn't, then don't say shit like that to me. If you ask me if I've tried "just not being depressed" expect me to punch you quite hard in your baby maker (this is applicable for boys and girls, I don't discriminate).

4. Yes I'm taking medication. No, it's not a cure. Sometimes my medication is not as effective as it should be. Some days are still hard for me. Some things will still send me into a depressive spiral. This is something I have to deal with every day, and most likely for the rest of my life. Definitely for the rest of my life when it comes to my ADHD.

5. No I don't want to hear some helpful "cure" for depression that you read about in the Woman's Day or saw on Today Tonight. No I don't think finding God will help. I am a very spiritual person but I get myself through the tough times, I don't need an imaginary friend to help me with that and I don't need "helpful" advice from mainstream norm media.

6. If you are my friend (and this counts even if you aren't a Norm) don't see me having a meltdown on social media, my blog, or via text and tell me how much you care about me and how you're there for me no matter what and then make absolutely no effort to message, call or see me at any other time. This makes you sound disingenuous and fake and makes me feel like my belief that everyone is just humouring me and putting up with me is well founded.

7. Be patient with me. If you want to be my friend try to learn about how my depression, anxiety and ADHD affect my life. Understand that some days will be hard for me. Sometimes I will hide. Efforts to draw me out of hiding are always appreciated even if they are unsuccessful.

8. Be brave enough to ask me questions. If I know that people are coming from a good, caring place when asking questions I am always more than happy to talk about my situation. Don't treat my illnesses as the elephant in the room that can't be discussed at all. But realise I won't always be in the frame of mind to discuss it, or even talk to anyone about anything at all.

9. If you feel like maybe you aren't a norm after all, that maybe you might have one of these crazy atypical brains too, ask for help. I am always willing to offer advice, guidance, a shoulder or an ear. Sometimes talking to someone who just gets it can be like a weight off your shoulders. Find that person you can lean on for a little while if you are struggling.

10. Yes I have depression, anxiety and ADHD. No this does stop me from being a good person. It does not stop me from being able to be a good mum. Sometimes I may fall down in the practical side of parenting (e.g. Washing, cleaning, doing the dishes, ironing) but when it comes to the emotional, psychological and nurturing side of being a parent I am more than capable. I am still able to make sensible decisions for myself and others, I am still able to form rational thoughts. This is not 1912, don't treat me like I belong in a nuthouse.

If you've gotten all the way to here and you're still reading then I commend you. You've taken a positive step to understanding mental illness (or you've got nothing better to do) and your attention span is fantastic!

Be awesome to each other, even us brokens.
Love tif xx


Millicent said...

Beautifully, perfectly written.

tif flynn said...

thanks Mill xx

Clinton Westall said...

Yes there are some of us reading and making it through to the end... and not just cause we have nothing better to do :-) Thank you for this, a great reminder and thought provoker, even for those who would like to think we're not that crass to do any of the what seems blatantly obvious and hurtful... much hugs and love to you xoxox

cathyzaikos said...

Tif, you've said everything I wan't to scream some days? I understand, I REALLY understand... I once said to my Mum, it would all be so much easier if I could wear a bandage on my head or had my arm in a sling, just a sign that makes every one see that just because I look fine and god help me I might laugh or be seen out of the house that everything is not okay... xxx

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