The last thing anyone wants to do is speak ill of the dead. When someone ends their own life, we see social media flooded with tributes about what a wonderful, amazing, happy, kind person they were.
These posts suggest that mental illness is hard to spot, that this person went from happy go lucky to suicidal overnight and no one saw it coming.
Now for some people, yes, they do a great job of pretending to be ok and yes, it's hard to see the signs.
But in other people, being anxious and depressed can look a whole lot like being an a*hole.
When my mental health was poor, I was a bit of an a*hole. Now I’m sure if had died no one would have wanted to bring it up, but I think talking about it helps others spot the signs.
My anxiety made me flaky; I’d cancel plans at the last minute, sometimes I wouldn’t even call to cancel just not turn up. I wouldn’t reach out and say, “Hey, I’m super anxious today - the thought of sitting in a restaurant is giving me a panic attack, can we get a takeaway”, I’d just make an excuse like “I couldn’t afford” …. but then would post pictures of myself out drunk the following weekend.
Really taking the piss.
My friends kept checking in and kept inviting me, but after so many no shows the invites stopped coming.
My depression made me lazy and unmotivated; I wasn’t pulling my weight at work or at home. I was snappy, had no empathy for others (I didn’t have any for myself, never mind anyone else). I couldn’t feel anything other than dread and sadness. And honestly, I could put a negative spin on the happiest of conversations. And my favourite pastime was blaming other people for how things were. I was angry all the time, I drank most weekends.
At that point in my life, I was a sponge, I had nothing to give anyone around me, my tank was empty, I was so poorly, yet I needed everyone else around me to keep giving and supporting me.
No one wants to say it but sometimes people who are ill aren’t fun to be around. I was lucky that those around me knew the real me and signposted me to the appropriate services.
I’m not saying that my illness excused my behaviour, I rightly faced a lot of consequences, and I did a lot of apologising once I was better.
I think it’s important to be able to recognise that depression isn’t always sadness hidden behind a smile, or smeared mascara and unbrushed hair. And it won’t always out itself in “reach out” chat either.
But it can do a good job of making your usually great friend, colleague, employee behave like an a*hole.
So, make sure to keep an eye out for that one too.
And make sure you have the right tools and resources to give them, the Respite Programme being one of the many options out there.