01 October 2013

Writing about the hard stuff: Mental Illness


So, I've been sitting on this idea for a post for a while. I'd been meaning to write and post it last week and be a top blogger, obviously that didn't happen. I am still a top blogger though, right?! 

It's a bit of a tough one for me to write given the personal crap that is about to explode all over the page. Not only is writing about the the topic hard, but writing about how hard it is to write about the topic is hard. It's writer inception. Writerception, if you will. Now I've gotten the obligatory Inception joke in there, let us move on. 

As you've probably gathered from the title, I'm going to splurge all the feels about Mental Illness. IT'S GOING TO BE A LAUGH RIOT. Probably not.

Mental Illness is something I've been circling around for a while as part of my screenplay (aka, the jumbled mess of notes currently scattered around my flat). I keep coming back to it because the topic itself is a highly personal one to me. I am also very aware of people I know reading this which makes it twice as hard to write about. But here goes, now comes the feels.

So, depression is something I've struggled with since I was 11, which is a delightful age most of the time, twice as delightful with depression. I was becoming a teenager and I hated everything. How unusual. Basically, I had a shitty time for the first few years of secondary school. I always had issues with feeling like I never quite fit in anywhere and always wanting to belong so badly. High school is not a helpful environment for those fears. And, without getting into the nitty gritty of it, I really struggled with the idea of existing in a place where I didn't feel like I should be. But I was a kid then, and mental illness wasn't something we talked about, so I kept it in and eventually the black cloud became more of a murky grey. And for a while things were okay. Well, as okay as I thought they could be. And then I got M.E. (or chronic fatigue if you prefer). M.E. is basically a condition where your body feels like it's dying a slow death. At least, that's what it feels like to me. At it's worst, I would spend days in bed, totally incapable of doing anything but sleep or cry, which is surprisingly exhausting. It weakened everything in my body, including my immune system which meant I was sick ALL THE TIME. It sucks balls. 

 Getting sick in your final year at school is never an ideal scenario, so imagine my joy when I got sick and then also had a crappy time with friends etc. The usual teenage girl crap really, but it can all get a bit much when you're ill. Eventually 6th year passed and, instead of taking time out like I smart human being would, I went to university. And I brought my M.E. and Depression with me- PARTAAYYYY! And then I slowly came to realise I hated my degree, and the murky grey cloud that had been growing and darkening, arrived with a vengeance looking like a great big black mindfuck of a storm. I hated everything, and I was anxious all the bloody time. Everyone would be out partying and I'd make my usual crappy excuses so I could sit in and lie in bed and panic about everything and then hate myself for panicking.

I was amazing to be around. Eventually I sorted my shit out, but depression isn't something that just goes away, it has to be managed, and a lot of the time, I am shit at managing it. I can hardly manage to update a blog on time, who's trusting me to manage my mental health?!

I'll give you a space to take all that shit in. Here, have a picture of a kitten to help:
This will make it allllll better.

Now comes my problem; how am I to write about something so personal and so important in a way that will translate to a big screen? Mental Illness is, by all accounts, not necessary a laugh riot, but it is something that needs to be spoken about. There are not a great deal of films I can think of that deal with the idea of mental illness, and deal with it well. The last I can think of is Silver Linings Playbook, which I really loved.

The problem with the film is that it was advertised as a romantic comedy, which it really isn't, leaving a lot of people totally baffled. They went expecting to see Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence hooking up, instead got a study on living with mental illness. It would be a little jarring. 

I want to write something that people can watch and enjoy, but I also want something that will encourage discussion. Film is one of the great arenas that shows everyday issues in a manner that allows for debate. Mental Illness is something that is talked about in hushed tones and then pushed aside to the corner, but given how prevalent it is in today's society, this is an essential time to start talking. There is an overwhelming need to medicate and then forget about the problem, but I know from my own experience, it doesn't necessarily work. 1 million people commit suicide every year, and yet this blog post is one of the hardest things I've ever written. If it's such a big problem, with 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem in the United Kingdom alone, why do I feel weirdly ashamed to have depression? I didn't know I had it until I'd already had it for 5 years and even after that, I was too embarrassed to talk about it. Hell, I still am. And I think this is why I am so determined to write about it, I don't want to feel embarrassed or ashamed, and I sure as hell don't want anyone else to be. 

So, yeah. I'll end this rambling here and hope that you aren't emotionally scarred. Apologies if you are. But I do hope it makes you think a little, and also makes you want to watch Silver Linings Playbook. All credit for the comics goes to Buzzfeed and this great list.

Peace out :) 


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