Picture indicating uphill struggle
Mental Health

The Cruel Lie – You Just Need to be Strong

Mental illness is just that – it is an illness. Just as a physical illness makes you ill, mental illness does too. Illness is no stroll in the park for anyone, no matter who they are or what they are dealing with.

The thing about mental illness, though, is it carries a sting in the tail. People seem to think that if someone has a mental illness, it is as a result of some kind of weakness. Physical illness is unfortunate, but mental illness seems to be perceived around the world as of their own making, and therefore they must be weak to have ended up ill in the first place, and weak for being trapped in the illness.

It’s just not true! New discoveries are being made every month that reveal the functions within the brain, that when not working properly, results in a mental illness developing. Strength and weakness have nothing to do with it.

Living with any serious illness takes strength and courage just to get by and function on a basic level each day. Mental illness is no different, except that it comes with an additional sting in the tail – it makes you physically ill too. Nausea, exhaustion, fatigue, IBS, muscular pain, joint pain, headaches. Weight, blood pressure and blood sugar are affected too. Then there is the impact on sleep… everyone experiences different problems, so the list is endless.

When someone is in the throws of an episode, the image of them sat in in their pyjamas unable to get washed and dressed because of the debilitating mental illness, is easy to scorn. It is so easy to think they must be weak just to sit there, staring at the wall in torment. It is easy to think that they just need to be told to pull it together and be strong, and they will be able to get up and function normally again.

The truth is; they just burned up their last bit of strength to push themselves out of bed when their brain and body were screaming at them not to. There is not an ounce of energy left in the system, and no reserves in the tank – that got burned up yesterday. Washing, dressing, eating, functioning, coping and working are all physically and mentally out of the question.

Distress And SufferingThe brain and body are all burned up, and they can do nothing but exist in an empty shell and sit with the torment they are experiencing. They will use inner strength to exist from minute to minute and hour to hour. As soon as they have some energy again, believe me, they will push themselves hard just to manage basic functions. That is the way it is in an episode of mental illness. It is cruel, severe and robs people of the opportunity to engage in the world around them.

It might take days, weeks or months for recovery to start. All they have left is their courage and the memories of what they used to be able to achieve in a typical day.

So, someone with a mental illness who is crying in pain and screaming in distress is not being weak; they are dying inside because they have no strength left.

Telling them to ‘you just need to be strong, and you will get through it’, is hurting them even more.

7 thoughts on “The Cruel Lie – You Just Need to be Strong”

  1. Wow, you have caught the essence of the illness and the stigma against it. My family members were always quick to let me know how inconvenient my illness was for THEM! My sister is the only one left and we came to an impasse because she doesn’t want to acknowledge any postitive changes I have gone through and I am tired of having to prove myself to her. Our parents have passed so I basically don’t have any family left. My husband’s family, however, knows my mental and physical health concerns and treat me as one of their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It is such a tragedy how much people fighting through mental illness have to put up with from those closest to us. It sounds like you had to put up with a lot of judgement and I bet that must have worn you out even more! I am glad that you have support from one half of the family, though. I hope things go well for you x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Shirley this is a piece that needs to be published worldwide. You’ve hit the nail on the head. And you desribe it so, excuse me, I can’t find the right word, it’s there somewhere but my brain can’t get a hold on it, anyway, you tell the story with so much clarity and conviction. I had a blog in mind that I though you could share it on, one that seems to get a lot of traffic and I just can’t remember which one it is. I will keep an eye out for it and share it with you.

    As I mentioned, you hit the nail on the head. People don’t understand what it is like to be mentally ill. They are completely clueless. I take my mother as an example. She thinks everything can be fixed with a hot shower and some clean clothes and a nice bowl of hot soup. This made me realize that I am in an elite group. Those of us who are suffering, who DO suffer this hell, are in it together and we have to reach out to each other of only for the sake of our emotional well being. It is so much harder suffering alone. Which reminds me of a story. “The Yellow Wallpaper”. It is a story that speaks to me of insanity, at least, a portion of insanity. It is very well written by a lady back in the 1800s I think Charlotte Gilman. It is a good read. I think you’d llike it.


    If you can think of any good stories that deal with mental illness or just any stories at all, please let me know. I need to augment my vocabulary and see if I can hang on to words and meanings again. This memory thing has shot my ability to do that, but there is always hope.

    So, definitely think about sharing this post with a wider audience. I can see this piece in a mag somewhere. Maybe even on NIMH.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Eric for the vote of confidence. I could pass it on to a UK mental health charity to see if they want to publish it. There is a big blog out there called The Mighty – is that perhaps what you are thinking of? I had been wanting to write about this for a long time, but couldn’t get myself to write it without getting angry, so I left it for a couple of years.

    I don’t know of any stories that deal with mental illness; I became so insular and lacking the ability to take things in, so I stopped reading and writing; I even stopped watching movies and TV too. I will take a look at The Yellow Wallpaper and see if I can read it. Thanks for the tip about it. If I come across anything, I will let you know.

    p.s. I have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mybonkersbrain/ that I publish on too, and I use it to post motivational, funny and interesting things too. Maybe you will find it interesting.


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