Talk to enough people who have had a mental illness and it won’t be long before you hear the words: “I didn’t think there was anything wrong. I just thought that’s how everyone feels.” It’s not stupidity or denial, just inexperience.
When I was a young man (sometime back in the Bronze Age), I would mistake severe bouts of depression as being a bit sad and a manic episode as happiness. It made sense to me. After all, everyone gets up or down, and this was my way.
The other thing about mental illness is that it can creep up on you. You don’t go to bed mentally healthy one day only to wake up the next, thinking to yourself “Yep, pretty sure that’s a classic case of Generalised Anxiety Disorder I’m feeling”.
It might start with just feeling a little low or having a worry or two too many. And because you’re not feeling great, you might have an extra glass or two of booze at night. Or spend more time scrolling in bed rather than sleeping. Or replace your Pilates with pizza.
And slowly but surely that sense of being a little low or worried gets worse until one day you wake up feeling like crap.
And you know what you think to yourself? “Ahhh, it’s nothing. This is just how everybody feels.” But it’s not nothing and it’s not how everyone feels.
It’s time to see your GP.
If you’d like to know more about the onset of mental illness, the American Psychiatric Association has an interesting article. Just don’t be put off about the mention of bipolar and schizophrenia in the opening paragraph: