Ten Things I’ve Learned from Being Mentally Ill
1. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR MY ILLNESS – Nope, I’m not. For a long time I believed that I was choosing to be the way I was and if I would just “get my shit together” life wouldn’t be so difficult for me. And then I began to question that blame. Does a person with cancer ask for their disease? Can they just think their illness away? Mental illness is as real and devastating as a “physical illness” and it needs to be treated with compassion. The next time you hear that someone is struggling with depression or anxiety, or some other mental health condition that you may not understand, resolve to show that person the same kindness as you would if you heard they had something as devastating as a heart condition or fatal illness.
2. I DO HAVE PEOPLE I CAN TURN TO – Once I disclosed that I was struggling with mental health issues, I worried that people might abandon me or no longer want to deal with me because of some of my behaviours. Instead, I found myself creating new and wonderful relationships with people like me, who too were struggling for acceptance and love. I’m surrounded by people who love me and only want me to get better, not because they don’t like how I am, but because they want to see my pain go away.
3. MENTAL ILLNESS HURTS – Yes, it hurts. Most of the time. It doesn’t just affect a person’s thoughts – with my mental illness i feel it in my body and in my soul. Emotional pain is the hardest pain of all, because there’s nothing that can take it away – no wonder so many people who battle mental illness also battle addictions. I turned to substances as a way to numb the pain.
4. THERE ARE PEOPLE JUST LIKE ME – When I first became ill, I was convinced that nobody else could possibly understand what I was feeling and going through. I felt alone and isolated and wore the shame and stigma of being mentally ill for the world to see. I blamed myself for my illness and viewed my life as a failure. But then, when I began to talk about my illness, I discovered there are so many people out there, fighting the same type of battles, that I started to understand that I wasn’t alone. And that feeling has sustained me through the ups and downs of my illness like nothing else.
5. GIVING BACK FEELS GOOD – One of the coping skills I use to manage my is contributing. I started a Facebook page and this blog as a way to share my stories, in the hopes that it might help others with their struggle. I wanted someone who was feeling all alone to know that someone out there does feel the way that they do and perhaps offer them support and guidance as they come to terms with managing their own illness.
6. SOME PEOPLE SUCK – Yep. There’s always gonna be people that don’t get you, nor do they want to. And that’s ok. Not everybody has to like me and I don’t have to like everybody. Accepting this as a reality has really helped me in my recovery. I spent years seeking the approval of others for my own self-worth and letting go of this concept has been freeing.
7. RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE – You can live a life worth living with a mental illness. Being diagnosed doesn’t mean that your world is over or that you are no longer worthwhile. Having an illness is just that……having an illness. You don’t become the illness but it does become a part of you. Learning to manage your symptoms and control your behaviours is possible with the right treatment.
8. I AM ONE STRONG-ASS WOMAN – During times of crisis, this is not something that I can usually say. But when I reflect back on my life and all that I have overcome, I understand how strong I am and this helps me get through the next crisis.
9. HELP IS AVAILABLE – Start by talking to your own doctor. Ask for a mental health evaluation. Talk openly with friends and families about what you are feeling. Call a help line. Reach out.
10. THE “MENTALLY ILL” ARE NOT CRAZY – Stop using this term to describe someone who is struggling with a mental health issue. Show compassion to those that are overcoming hurdles that others never have to encounter. When you see someone who looks sad or alone, do an act of kindness and smile at them. Reach out and listen to your family or friends who may be struggling. Be open-minded.