20 Things I Want Others to Know About Me and My Mental Illness
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
My name is Lynn.
I have depression.
I have anxiety.
I have an eating disorder.
My name is Lynn and I struggle with mental illness.
I’ve known since an early age something was different about me. I never felt like I fit in or was comfortable in my own skin. I always felt periods of overwhelming sadness. Life always felt hard. I could never put a name to what was wrong with me, but I just knew I wasn’t “right.”
I spent years desperately trying to keep my feelings hidden. I tried to pretend I was fine and put on a happy face. I was lying to the outside world and in many ways, lying to myself. Sometimes I think I still am.
That is why I am writing this today.
I have spent the last year trying to get to know myself. Who is the real Lynn? What do I wish people could understand about me and about mental illness?
So here it goes:
1. Mental illness is not a choice.
Because seriously, who would want to cry themselves to sleep on a regular basis? And who would want the heart pounding experience of a panic attack? Nobody would ever choose this.
2. I am not seeking attention.
I am the girl who as a child would stay up early into the morning just sobbing. And I never, ever told anybody about it until recently. Only a handful of people know of my situation and I have trouble really opening up to most people. I like to get attention from positive accomplishments, not my illness.
3. I am not being dramatic.
While some of the things I say and write may come off as dramatic, they come straight from my heart and are brutally honest. My thoughts hurt to say and write sometimes. I wish I didn’t have to think them.
4. It’s hard to understand what’s going on in my mind sometimes.
I don’t understand what is going on in my mind half the time, so I never expect anybody else to. Just know my mind is full of chaos and please understand when I start to spiral, I can’t help it.
5. I sometimes think about killing myself.
The first time it entered my mind, I was about 11. I seriously considered it in college. And now I think about it all the time. It’s not that I want to die, I just want to stop hurting and I don’t want to burden anybody else with my problems. But suicide is not an option.
6. I still want to be your friend.
Please hate my illness and not me. It has robbed me of enough over the years, please don’t let it ruin a friendship.
7. I want you to remember me for the good times.
I am way more than my eating disorder or my depression. And even though I am probably at my worst right now, please remember me at my best. Think of me with smiles and laughter, even though I may not always be able to do the same.
8. I still have a sense of humor.
I have depression, but I am still really funny too. Please do not be afraid to joke with me. I need to laugh more than ever.
9. I feel guilty sometimes.
I am in my head so much of the time that I feel guilty for being selfish. I try hard to be a good friend and not to make life all about me, but if I fail at it, please know I am sorry. I want to know about your life because I care. I guess it’s because I spent so much of my life ignoring my problems and putting others first, now I may need to be a little selfish as I try to get better.
10. I have an eating disorder.
I have an eating disorder called “Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder” (OSFED) and it is just as life threatening as the more well-known types. Telling me to “just eat more” sounds simple, but the disease is not about food. I love food and I want to be weight restored to a healthy place. My depression and anxiety make it all the harder. It is a constant battle I fight.
11. I’m scared.
I’m scared of so many things right now. I’m scared I will never beat this. I’m scared I will always feel like this. I’m scared I will let people down. I’m scared I will hurt my friends and family. I’m scared I will die.
12. I am not weak.
It takes a strong person to have lived inside my head for so long. I am not weak even though my mental illness is starting to take its toll and break me down. The fact I am still alive means I am strong. The fact I have been quite successful in life even though I have struggled means I am strong. The fact I am still fighting means I am strong.
13. Sometimes I feel like a failure.
The fact I can’t seem to get control over my own mind makes me feel like a failure. I may know logically this is not my fault, but I still feel like I should be able to “power through” this on my own when I can’t.
14. I’m still an optimist.
Having depression does not make me a negative person. I believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe in looking on the bright side. I believe things happen for a reason. I can see the good in life and recognize my blessings. At the same time, I can also be consumed with sadness and feel as if I’m trapped under a dark cloud.
15. I’m sorry.
I say “I’m sorry” all the time. I am a huge people pleaser and the thought of causing anybody any trouble makes me feel physically ill. I truly am sorry if I do anything to be a burden or to bring somebody down. I want to always be a motivator and help people, not be the person who needs help.
16. I need help.
Another thing I say often of late. It took a little persuasion from a friend to make me realize I needed to get some help for myself. I didn’t know how to ever ask for help before. I didn’t think I was worthy. I still need help and lots of it.
17. I am thankful.
I am so thankful for everything I have in life. Even though things are bad, I would not trade the good coming from it. For the first time, I am allowing myself to feel — even if it hurts. For the first time, I am learning how to be authentic. For the first time, I am learning to trust people. For the first time, I have true friends who have gone above and beyond for me and I would do the same in return.
18. I wear a mask.
I realize I am not the same person so many people thought I was. I was able to wear a mask and put on a front that all was OK for years. But it never really was OK. Not to say I was being fake or phony, I was just protecting others from my disorder and trying my best. The “Lynn” people saw was real — she does exist. But I just did not allow anybody to see the rest of me and I often had to force myself to be “up” when inside, I was crying.
19. I am a good person.
Having a mental illness does not make me a bad person, it makes me a person with an illness. It is no different than having any other illness and I am doing everything in my power to get well.
20. I don’t want you to give up on me.
No matter where my journey leads me, please don’t ever give up on me. The only reason I am still fighting is because of the support I have been shown and the people who continue to be there for me — especially a couple of people in particular and they know who they are.I know it isn’t always easy and I must be hard to listen to and frustrating to understand, but please know I am trying so hard to get better and make you proud.
My name is Lynn and I have a mental illness…
My name is Lynn and I struggle…
My name is Lynn.
A version of this post appeared in “Diary of a Disordered Mind” by Lynn Fairview. It is a story about living and functioning in society with mental illness told through journal entries, poetry and paintings.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Photo via contributor.