Updated: Apr 3, 2020
*Trigger Warning: this story focuses on the mental health effects of living with a loved one with mental health illness*
Name: Sintja Baba
Age: 29 years old
Occupation: Bartender/ Musician “THE NAIVE” and “Marlon Chaplin”
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Last time we spoke the focus was on me and my struggle with being an artist in the city, but this time I wanted to bring the focus more on a person that is very close to me. I also wanted to address the issue that with social media we assume everyone is doing so great and their lives are perfect, when in reality everyone has been through something or is currently going through something, but no one really knows unless you talk about it.
So, I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to share that I have been going through something with someone very close to me who is struggling with their mental health. And, the thing is it is something that has been a part of this person’s life for a really long time, but I was ignorant and didn’t understand what was happening when symptoms were starting to show. I just assumed that they were little quarks and that everything was cool because this person is extremely eccentric and artistic. But, truthfully the issue was that I wasn’t educated. I didn’t know. And, I ended up putting a lot of guilt on myself when I had finally realized that something was really wrong which was about five years ago.
Since then I’ve learned that if we don’t educate our selves and learn how to be patient with people that are struggling, which includes myself, we’ll only end up hurting each other more. Overall, I just really think we need to acknowledge each other more. And, I say this coming from a culture where we suppress these things so much. Looking back it has now become so obvious to me that I was always surrounded by people who struggled with similar issues, but never addressed it. In my culture, people go so far to protect their family reputation from being tarnished that they hide these struggles. This results in people not educating themselves enough to know when there’s something wrong with a loved one, which makes acceptance even more difficult once found out. Many don’t want to face these issues, and remain in a state of denial. I felt guilty of being in this state for a while.
So, overall I think it is really important to hear people out. Even when it is about things you may not understand. To not be judgemental or brush it aside, but to try and understand where that person is coming from. Why they may be experiencing the things that they are. And, the way we can do that is by educating ourselves. Mental health is so complex and it is still something I am trying to understand and am continuing to learn about because besides this specific person there are other people in my life who are also struggling. And, because I’ve looked into it more and am educating myself it’s become more and more obvious to me that a lot of people struggle and that a lot of people need support and attention, but they don’t know how to ask for help.
Going through this entire journey has really made me realize that I need to take care of myself more, which has been the silver lining because not everyone has that approach. Some people take care of others before they ever even think to take care of themselves. And sometimes we need to realize that the people who seem the strongest are also the people that need the most encouragement and support. I say this because I was recently there. I was experiencing an intense emotional instability during all of this. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I don’t know if I would exactly label it as depression, but my emotions went from one extreme to another.
Luckily, I had somebody encourage me to go to therapy, which I had also never done before and I was like, “you know what it cannot hurt.” So, I tried it. I loved it. And, I was really lucky that the first person I was recommended to I jived with. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve recognized that it is an amazing thing to have friends and family around you to talk to, but there is something so great about talking with someone who is completely unbiased. Where you don’t feel like you’re burdening them with all your issues. You can say all the things you’ve been too scared to say out loud, free of judgement which has made such a huge difference for me.
Therapy really helped me to acknowledge everything that has happened to me over the past couple of years. It’s taught me to not feel guilty about taking time for myself. To realize that I need to take time for myself and to understand everything on my own, before being able to lean on the other people. Because this person is so close to me I’ve been doing a lot of hospital visits, some of them where I could barely even recognize this person. From there, I would go straight to work to a very busy and social environment or to rehearsal where I felt like I had to have it all together, which would take so much out of me that when I was by myself I became completely disheveled.
Truthfully, it’s been a lot. At times it’s made me feel so guilty for having any moment of joy because I know how much this person is struggling. I felt like I couldn’t be happy. Until, I started to realize that I couldn’t do that to myself. That it wasn’t fair to me. And, that I am doing my best and that bringing myself down to try to be closer to them wasn’t healthy. For either of us. And, that one of the best things I could ever do for this person was accept it.
I’ve realized that now, but to be honest acceptance was a lot harder than I ever imagined. It took years. I couldn’t even bring myself to say what their diagnosis was out loud. But, I finally realized that if you truly love someone it is so important that you don’t encourage them through your own denial. And, throughout this entire experience it has really taught me not to be self-absorbed and to be patient; in general and with other people. To listen more. And, to be open.