5 Things People With Mental Illness Wish You Understood
I feel that it’s lucky to find someone who is willing to be patient and understanding with your mental illness. Mental illness isn’t always easy to understand, so when our friends and family decide to be onboard, it’s a relief (and sometimes feels like a miracle). It’s hard however to explain every part of a mental illness outside of what someone can read off the internet. There’s a lot more to having a mental illness, and there’s a lot more to the struggles of mental illness that might not always be noticeable.
So, here are five things I wish people knew and were able to understand about my mental illness.
1. We are not lazy.
There will be periods of time that showering and getting out of bed will be the hardest things we have to do. Some days are a blessing because we actually put on clothes and brush our hair. It feels disappointing to wake up sometimes, and our bodies feel like they’re being pressed with weights. We can even become flaky with the people we love more than anything, and then hate ourselves for doing so. We may even dodge texts and messages on Facebook. But it’s not because we are lazy or bad people. Depression can just be so severe, sometimes we can’t perform daily functions.
Everything physically feels like it’s too much, and our throats close up just at the thought of taking care of ourselves or socializing. Don’t call us lazy; just keep talking us through this. The best way to get out of a hibernation funk is a little love from the people I care about. We may need reassurance and patience to get back to our normal, social, hardworking selves.
2. We have bad days, even with medication.
Medications are not a cure-all. Some of us have to try different medications constantly to find the right fit. But just because we are taking medications, or are in therapy, it doesn’t mean we aren’t human. We’re going to have bad days. Medication doesn’t make us impervious to life. If something bad happens, we react. If we are in a bad mood, we’re still going to be in a bad mood. Medication prevents the extremes, but doesn’t sedate us (although I have taken very sedative medication, and I hate not feeling at all). Understand that we are human, and don’t simply question if we stopped taking medication just because we are not happy. Let us be a person, and let us have some emotion without medication shaming.
3. We might be more stable some days, but we’re not cured.
Sometimes people with mental illness deal with extremes; our moods can be extreme highs, extreme lows or even both. We are all looking for balance to be at peace with ourselves. My mental illness is more obvious when I’m manic (the highs). I indulge in reckless behaviors, and my mind is racing. So when I crash it may seem like I’m stable, but that’s not the case. I might be severely depressed, and may seem calm, but I could be in a dangerous state of mind. There are even days of stability for all of us, but it doesn’t mean we’re all better. Mental illness can be chronic; it’s not the flu. It doesn’t just go away. So let us enjoy good, stable days, because in the back of our heads we don’t know if it will last. And don’t act surprised if we have bad days after good ones.
4. We hate when people say “it could be worse.”
No kidding. We’re well aware it could be worse. We already feel guilty, because we don’t validate our problems as is. Personally, both in the moment and now, this is the worst. We don’t like to feel ashamed because of what we can’t help, especially because we may feel ashamed already. Our stories are our own; we don’t need to compare notes with other people. Our struggles belong to us, and they are our weight to carry. We don’t need added baggage, or perspective. When you say it could be worse, you make us feel selfish for dealing with chronic illness.
5. Above all, we recognize those who are there for us.
We see you. We know who is cheering us on, we know the difference between bad influences and the people who actually have our best interests in mind. Although we may not always be able to say it, we are grateful, and we do love you for all you do. You are our backbone when we’re weak, and you’re our cheerleaders on our good days. Without our caretakers, friends and supporters we would be lost. We know how much everyone sacrifices to help us, and we love you for doing so. You’re the most important and beautiful people in our eyes; we think you’re the real superheroes.
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.
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Thinkstock photo via LittleBee80