We were halfway through the second jug of margaritas when my best friend said of me: she’s a complete nut job. I can’t remember why I was the subject of conversation: HALFWAY THROUGH THE SECOND JUG OF MARGARITAS.

I’ve been called crazy since…well…the dawn of me. I’ll be perfectly honest with you: it’s perhaps the highest compliment I’ve been paid because despite the betrayal of a few teenage years, I’ve never considered conformity to be something to strive for.

But I’m intensely aware of the fact that I’m not really ‘crazy’…that I’m actually pretty normal, apart from an inexplicable love of vinegar and suspense thrillers…

I’ve been blessed beyond what I deserve when it comes to mental health. And in saying that I don’t mean to imply that my engine roars every day. Some days there’s a light ‘click’ and the engine stays dead. But I’ve always had a clear understanding of where my end-of-the-line is, and what type of help I need when I need it. And I cry. I cry so easily and with such gusto, I can probably power a small polynesian island when I get into the ugly cry stage. I allow it freely. And I find it gets me through some stuff…

But not everyone is that lucky.

The daughter of a good friend struggles with serious mental health illness. Despite medication, her life is a docu-drama with hints of thriller. I once overheard her say to her mom: I wish I had cancer. At least then I would have had people’s sympathy.

I cried. How lonely and disrespected must mental health sufferers feel to say something like that? I searched my mind and I’m ashamed to say I have not always shown tolerance to those around me with depression, anxiety and other difficulties.

See, I was raised in a get-yo-shit-together kinda house. My parents were wonderful and they did the best absolute best with what they had, like most parentals do, but revelations of how serious and debilitating mental health problems can be is a rather new phenomenon. They simply didn’t know better…

During the last few weeks, alone and overwhelmed with work that doesn’t seem to end, I’ve been feeling rather isolated and – at times – hopeless. Like maybe I’m the only person on the planet…and there really is no point.

At the start of our horrid faculty meeting yesterday, our boss revealed that two of our colleagues have been taken up in hospital for exhaustion, stress and anxiety. He took some time to awkwardly and stutteringly explain that we should take better care of ourselves. His discomfort was palpable, as was my disbelief when he said: if you need help with mental health issues, here, here is a toll-free helpline number…

Toll-free helpline? We’re only about 35 staff members and some of the most stubborn, hard-headed assholes in this part of the world, we gonna use a hotline?!

And of course, hotlines are wonderful things and thank goodness for it! But I could not help but feel even more isolated.

A few of us got together after the meeting and the loveliness of laughing and speaking with friends was unspeakably healing. But it got me thinking about mental health difficulty that cannot be cured by hanging out with friends. Real, honest to goodness, pervasive problems…

The line between mental health and mental disability is alarmingly thin, it seems to me. It’s tissue paper stretched between two realities: one in which you look around and see your life in all its ranges of color. And the other in which you look around and see nothing but dark walls moving in on you.

My students spend all their time learning about evidence and how to present it and how to win cases. Years of training and memorising and practicing. And not a single moment is spent learning how to deal with the ridiculous pressure that will descend on them when they walk into courtrooms. They will be unprepared for the loudness of the noise in their heads when lives and livelihoods are at stake. And they will be paralysed under the weight of self-disappointment when they lose cases.

I don’t know how to help or prepare them. I’ve been grossly ill-prepared myself. But I know this: the world…this planet…has to start paying better attention to how we raise humans.

Because I refuse to live in a world where anyone chooses cancer…

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