Content notice: mental illness, suicide
I was in high school when Sinead O'Connor started her rise to fame with her first album, The Lion and The Cobra. "Nothing Compares 2 U" was like the anthem of every breakup ever.
In those days, I knew what mental illness was because I was living with it via my mother, but no one was talking about it, no one was naming it. And in 1990, the year that "Nothing Compares 2 U" rose to the top of the charts around the world, I had my first manic break. I didn't know it was a manic break. No one around me knew it was a manic break, or if they did, they just figured it was healthy for me to drive myself into the ground trying to work 35 hours a week and maintain a 4.0 GPA. I wouldn't know that was a manic break, nor would I recoginze the depression that followed it, for many years later.
No one was talking about Sinead being mentally ill then. For all I know, she was just like me, working herself to death to rise to success and then crashing into the ground almost as quickly as she rose. But years later we'd hear from Sinead that she is bipolar — just like I am bipolar. Maybe we shared manic breaks after all.
This week, Sinead posted a video to Facebook talking very specifically about her mental health and what it's like to be mentally ill. (She is now reportedly 'in hospital.')
The video is 12 minutes long, and I watched it twice before writing this. Not because I enjoy seeing the misery of mental illness in other people, but because I understand the misery of mental illness in myself. That misery makes you want to turn away but also keeps you transfixed.
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If you have been suicidal, I don't think you can watch another person who is suicidal without feeling that pain very viscerally. Watching Sinead, I felt my stomach falling, my body sweating, my heart beating, and then my tears falling.
I know this pain. This is the pain of being alone. The pain of feeling like you're the only person who is feeling what you're feeling. The pain of knowing that much of the world doesn't care about your invisible illness, or you, at all.
This is the pain of believing that the world would be better without you in it.
It is a lie that your brain works very hard to make you believe.
Since the video went up, folks have come out of the woodwork to help Sinead. But isn't it just sad that it has to come to a public cry for help for someone to feel cared for?
There are mentally ill people all around you. You may not know they are suffering, but if you ask, you might find out.
If you or someone you love needs help, please call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit their website.