It has to hit you in just the right way at just the right time. You don’t see it coming, but suddenly your family is looking at you as if you are an intruder in their home. They are horrified. You are crying uncontrollably at that television commercial where the kids are…and then the old man and his little dog says…and then the football quarterback hands the little boy his…and then everyone is holding hands and singing.
You know the one I mean.
And your family is so embarrassed for you, they take a collective and silent vow to never show you anything remotely close to this commercial on youtube. No one wants to see this display of weird and uncomfortable emotion from you ever again.
The times I cry at commercials almost always takes me by surprise. So, imagine my surprise when I came downstairs to make coffee early one morning before work this week, clicked on the TV, and saw a young bald woman being told by, who I am assuming is her mother, “Really a lot of people are worse off than you, ya know.”
Then in the next scene, her father says, “I’m getting tired of hearing about this.”
At this point, whatever this commercial is for, it has my attention.
“Oh honey, snap out of it.”
“You’re kinda dragging me down.”
“Why don’t you just go outside. Get some sunshine. You’ll be fine.”
“Can we stop with the pity party?”
Tears are streaming down my face as I see the expression on the young woman’s face. I can actually see her pain and feelings of abandonment. The words that appear on the screen next have now caused me to sit down because even though all I see are these nine words, I know exactly what is coming next.
“You’d never talk like this to someone with cancer.”
Now I can hear myself crying. My hand is covering my mouth and I’m feeling raw and relieved at the same time. The sentences that come next push me over the edge.
“Don’t talk like this to someone with depression.”
“Depression is real. Serious. Life threatening.”
I sat there for a few moments not knowing what to think. I have cried at many commercials before this one, but the only thing this public service announcement was selling was compassion and love for people who struggle with mental illness and their families and friends who love them.
It was a breath of fresh air and a sign that mental illness is being recognized for the serious, life-threatening, and real physical illness that it is.
That commercial changed the rest of my day.
I’m glad no one was around to see it with me. No, wait. I wish anyone who has ever known my kids and I were there to see how excruciating mental illness can be and how thinking that a walk outside on a sunny day will fix everything.
Would you tell a 25-year-old with cancer or diabetes or multiple sclerosis to walk it off? Stop complaining because there are other people worse off? Snap out of it? You wouldn’t.
I didn’t see it coming, but this commercial gave me hope. Hope that there are people out there who know exactly what mental illness does and how it affects everyone involved.
And this is how we get there.