For years I worked with brain injury. Depending upon the cause, damage to the brain can mark the survivor with more or less obvious physical impairments. But frequently the greatest impact leaves no obvious trace on the outside. The injury takes its most significant toll on memory, behaviour and fatigue.
Not unlike mental illness.
For many who have never had direct experience of mental illness the tendency is to imagine the extreme – psychotic, eccentric, suicidal behaviour. But the reality is so much more complicated, so much more subtle and, on the outside it is often so apparently normal. Especially for those of us who live with anxiety and mood disorders.
We look like other people. We have lives, families, jobs when we are well enough. But sometimes those things are tenuous. And yet there is this inability to step away from the condition and observe it, no CAT scans or MRIs to chart the progress of the illness or mark remission.
Recovery is a slippery concept. It depends so much on how we feel.
And the deeper we look the harder it is to know exactly how we feel.