To the Friends Who Doubt My Mental Illness

I’d like to think I live a fairly “normal” life, but unfortunately, I don’t know if that’s true. See, my reality is much different than most people’s realities, and my day-to-day life is much more complex than your average Joe.

For years I have battled anxiety, depression, panic attacks and cycling mood swings. I hope you can acknowledge these illnesses are just as real and valid as any other biological condition. I am being treated with medication and therapy, just how someone would treat a physical illness. I am no less of a person just because I have a mental illness. It does not make me less deserving of your respect, and it most certainly does not make me weak.

I wish I could tell you how I feel or show you what goes on in my head sometimes, but I fear that you just won’t understand; that you’ll say I should just “be happy,” “quit worrying,” and “don’t think negatively.” But it’s not that simple. I want you to know that finding balance while I’m struggling with mental illness is the greatest challenge in my life, but despite those obstacles, you would never suspect I was struggling based on the way I present myself.

I wish I could just make you understand that the reason I cancelled our plans was not because I didn’t want to spend time with you, it’s just that I didn’t feel up to it. That it’s not something that I can control, even with medication. I wish that you could understand why I am on medication and stop making it seem like I am letting medicine control my life. I hope that one day you will stop seeing me as “different,” fragile and weak. Because I am probably one of the strongest 19-year-olds you have ever met, but you wouldn’t know, because you never bother to ask me my story.

I hope you know that some days are good and some days are less than satisfactory, but I still genuinely try to make the most out of my life. I wish I could explain everything I’ve been through and the reasons behind it all, but sometimes mental illness is just unexplainable.

And in the end, I hope you know that mental illness does not define me, it’s just a part of who I am. So to everyone that ever doubted me, here I am. Yes, I have mental illnesses, and no, I am not ashamed.

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Unsplash photo via Ariel Lustre

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