The Mighty Logo

Why You Shouldn’t Stop Asking People With Mental Illness to Participate

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

In no way do I intend to speak for the masses. I cannot present any perspective other than my own. However, for the purpose of this article, I will use the pronoun “we” to describe a group of people who are connected by having a mental illness or a specific diagnosis. Please know that your individual experience is valid, and my only intention is to reiterate the truth that no one is alone.

My name is Elizabeth. I am a sister, a student, a daughter and a friend, among other things. I am also a person living with chronic mental illness. My list of DSM-5 abbreviations is longer than I care to admit. Like many others whose brain chemistry lands them somewhere on the mental illness spectrum, something I constantly struggle with is finding a sense of self-worth and convincing myself there is value in the search. Although this issue is particularly present for those with diagnoses like mine, I have found it to be applicable to many.

Unfortunately, a common characteristic of serious mental illness, particularly borderline personality disorder (BPD), is a total lack of self-worth and a strong overdependency on validation from others. We have an exceptionally difficult time comprehending that our life is of worth and our feelings are valid. Typically, we idolize others greatly and see little fault in anybody but ourselves. Being extremely sensitive to perceived acceptance or rejection, interpretation of our value is largely dependent on other’s reactions to our presence or absence.

Often, individuals who struggle with mental illness can have great difficulty in social situations or the ability to fight the urge to isolate and shut down. Personally, overwhelming anxiety and constant negative and self-deprecating thoughts leave me in my room, alone and trapped in my own head for the majority of the day.

Tonight, I am sitting on my bed listening to my family play a card game together at the kitchen table. They did not ask me to play. I have to remind myself that this is not because they do not want me there. It is not because they do not love me or because they do not care about me. It is because I don’t often participate in family activities or leave the safety/prison of my room. I have to remind myself it is because they are trying to respect the fact they believe I am more comfortable up here.

Realistically speaking, what it really feels like is that they have given up on me. That they have decided it isn’t worth asking if I am going to say no. That they assume I choose not to want to play or interact. I wish I could explain that I want to play. I want to laugh and be social, but it is more difficult for me to do so and almost impossible to initiate by myself.

I don’t always say no when they ask. And I typically enjoy myself when I say yes. One day, I guess the times I said “no” outnumbered the times I said “yes,” so they stopped asking. However extreme it may seem, my brain tends to use instances like these to fuel and solidify the deep-seeded hatred I harbor against myself, the strong urges to self-harm and the belief that my life is inconsequential.

I write this not for sympathy, but to remind those who may relate that they are anything but alone, to create a potential icebreaker to help communicate how crucial inclusion is, and primarily to encourage those who love and care for someone who struggles with their mental health not to give up.

Keep asking. Keep trying. Keep including.  Keep reaching out. Keep encouraging. Keep reminding everyone of their worth and how much their presence means to you.

Sometimes the line between encouraging and pressuring is thin, but please do not stop asking. Even if “yes” only happens 10 percent of the time, that is 10 percent less time spent isolating and feeling trapped inside our mind. It is worth it. We are worth it. Please, please, do not give up.

In the beautiful words of the brilliant Sierra Boggess, “You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.”

Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

Originally published: January 3, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home