When Is the Right Time to Let You Into My World of Mental Illness?


You think I’m not interested anymore. You couldn’t be further from the truth. We haven’t physically seen each other for over two weeks now. We keep making plans — but something keeps “coming up” on my end and I have to cancel or rearrange. Your calls to invite me out aren’t always answered or are getting shorter — as if you already know the answer. Of course I’m busy, I’m sorry, tomorrow maybe?

I decided to be honest with you. To go out, to sit down and lay my cards on the table for you to see — to see how my cards don’t “add up to a full deck,” but my brain lies and tells me there are too many cards, too many faces for anyone to see and take seriously.

I try to think about how I am going to start this. How do I describe my world to you, my world that can be so different from the world you know? How do I describe to you the colors, the noise, the speed, the dance on a thin line I perform every time I open my eyes? I fall back on music — maybe this song will tell you. Maybe these lyrics will explain better. But what if you hear something different than me? What if we are hearing different tunes?

You think I am cold at times. You tell me my excitement or happiness looks false when you look closely. You think the horrors of the world cease to upset me and inside I am devoid of feeling. We make jokes about this. That nothing can shock me, that I have old shoulders and eyes that have seen too much to be burdened with the pain of the world.

The truth is that long ago, I learned I have to control my emotions and only let them out in tiny little droplets so as not to be swept away by a tsunami. I feel everything so deeply, so raw, but I cannot let myself cry. I have worked hard. I work hard every day to assess my feelings and evaluate whether I, me, myself, am actually feeling that emotion. I come across clinical, deciding if something is worth being happy or sad about. While I am struggling to keep one emotion under control, three others are sweeping through my life, shouting at people, singing to strangers, crying at the TV as I am unaware, focused solely on that one emotion I am hiding successfully. But you see all of them and don’t understand how I’m suddenly the most animated and wild person you have ever met and why I cant just “relax.”

So I decide to tell you again. But then you tell me in conversation that your child had serious mental health issues and died by suicide a few years ago. And my words stick in my throat, the sentences recoil and slither back to the pit in my stomach and I realize, I won’t be telling you today. Do I tell you at all now? Do I tell you I too have woken up in a hospital bed and burst into tears — because I woke up? Do I tell you I love being around you, I enjoy your presence near me but there will be times — believe me, there really will be — that you wont want to be near me when I cry and beg you to hug me but scream at you to get off me when you do, because my skin is so agitated and sensitive right now, it feels like you are raking razors through my veins?

When do I tell you all this and more? After we have decided to have the talk that “we aren’t working”? When I see you in the street with your new lover and you ask how I’ve been, do I want to get a coffee “for old time’s sake”? Before I turn up at your door at 4 a.m. wearing just a coat and sandals, in the rain, because I had to tell you about a book I just finished, but I could hear the electricity running through my phone and I thought it was safer to walk to you instead of calling?

There is no right time. In my world, often enough, there is no time at all. Or too much time. But I want there to be “our time.” I really do. I just don’t know how to make that yet, though I’m really trying. If you take nothing else away from this, just know I’m trying. At the moment, that’s all I can promise.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


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