Survivor or fighter?

I hate the term ‘survivor’, to me it implies stories of being lost on a desert island or overcoming some horrific disease, but it is frequently used for those enduring mental health.  The term seems to imply that you had it and are now over it… but this is rarely true.

Those who have mental health, as I do, have no say on how long it takes to get better.  Very often the cycle of illness is forever spinning and little can be done.  But then we have the few who aren’t survivors- they are fighters.  They fight for their basic human right to live each day as normally as they can.  They overcome the challenges and obstacles laid in front of them.

To ‘survive’ leave me thinking that it was something that they endured that went eventually, but it is so much more than that.  A daily battle to put one foot in front of the other.  To fight the thoughts and feelings that are enveloping every movement and daily task.

I meet incredible people every day, some more so than others.  The people that inspire me are those who suffer badly with mental health, yet every day they use their illness as a public platform to try and eradicate stigma and help others.  Using their own sad story to lead others out of the depths of despair.  To support others, even when their own lives are an illusion of stability.

You will always see these ‘fighters’ with a smile on their face.  They wear this smile as a shield to the inner feelings and as a weapon to ward off the feeling of hopelessness they are feeling.  This takes true strength, to put your own sorrow on hold for the sake of bettering the lives of others.

The sad thing is they never see this.  They think of themselves as broken or just coping, when in fact they are so powerful in their fight that they attack their illness head on.  The people who suffer the most are those who inspire others the most.  Some sick irony in that.

I want to grab them and tell them how much they are valued and inspire others.  That they give them strength to fight as they are, but it will fall on deaf ears.  When life has beaten you there are only two ways to go…. sink or swim.  Your facade may look calm and happy but the little feet are furiously paddling trying to stay afloat.  Maybe even those who appear strongest need a rubber ring thrown to them and pulled ashore, to receive care from a good friend.

Some see putting on a front as fake but i find it fascinating that with false bravado, someone can overcome true depression or hardship.  I do not believe that we need to walk round with a smile tatooed to our faces all the time, but we are looking at a shield.  A shield from the world to protect them.  Perhaps they have fought alone for a long time or been let down badly.

Whatever the reason, it gets them through the day.  My concern would be that it is impossible to keep this shield raised and at some point it will fall.  Unfortunately it is then that these wonderful, brave people are let down by all those around.  The support they give so freely is not reciprocated and cracks appear.

Anyone reading this will recognise themselves if they are a fighter but will refuse to believe what I say, preferring to accept the negative and failures, as opposed to great triumph and achievement.  But if you take one thing from this, then let it be…

Some can see your true worth and you really are inspirational to all those you touch.  Never let your illness define who you are and never give up the fight.  You may not ever beat it but you can sure as hell give it a run for it’s money.

mer

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