The Mighty Logo

To the Loved One of a Person With a Mental Illness, Do You Really Get It?

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

The mental health articles I always post are for you, the one who calls me friend. They are for you, the one who calls me wife, mom, daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, and cousin.

I post informative articles because I’m thinking of you. I try to remember you have feelings too. I try to remember my mental illness affects you too, so I take the opportunity to post these articles in hopes they will explain why I do the things I do and why I am who I am. I post articles to inform you because sometimes a lack of knowledge causes you to say and do things, that in my opinion, are hurtful.

A couple of the things you should know:

1. Ignoring your phone call is not a personal attack, but I can see how someone would view it as such.

When you call me and I don’t answer the phone, sorry, I am not sorry. I don’t do it because I don’t like you or I’m mad at you or I’m ignoring you. I do it because at that moment, in that time, I need to be left alone in a quiet enviorment. I cannot function on the phone because I don’t have the energy to express myself. Pretending to be upbeat and happy while using a pleasent tone on the phone causes my anxiety to skyrocket. I don’t have the patience. In that moment, I can’t focus on anyone else’s problems. I’m trying to focus on my problems. I’m trying to focus on getting me better. I certainly don’t have my listening ears on. A phone call takes a lot of work. You have to listen and respond immediately. However, while texting, I can read what you have to say and when I feel like it, I can respond. Because with a text I don’t really have to laugh, I just write, “LOL.” With a text you don’t have to hear happiness in my voice. I can just send you an emoji.

2. When I cancel plans it is not a personal attack, but again, I could see how some would find this hurtful.

When I decide at the last moment not to do something with you, it’s not because I don’t want to. I’ve wanted to the whole time. I’ve been so excited. I’ve talked about it over and over. Then the moment arrives and decisions have to be made: How much time is enough time for me to get ready? How should I wear my hair? What should I wear? What if we run into people we know? What if I have to do more talking than what I want? What if I feel rushed? What if I feel nervous? What if my stomach starts to hurt? What if my breathing starts to become excessive? What if my anxiety feels out of control? What if I get angry and blow up in front of people I don’t know? The list goes on and on. My brain tells me I can’t, and then my body shuts down, so I reluctantly let you know I can’t go.

3. “Down-playing” my situation, considering me to be well or ignoring my illness make me feel like my illness isn’t legitimate.

You have to stop acting like I’m not sick. You have to stop acting like my illness is not a real illness. You have to stop telling me to “just get over it.” You have to stop making me think it’s all in my head. You have to stop thinking that just because it’s the brain, I should be able to control it. You have to stop assuming that reading God’s word and being a better Christian is going to make my illness go away. However, make no mistake that I do understand having a relationship with God is a top priority for me.

The brain is just as susceptible to injury as any other part of your body is, external or internal. The brain is just as susceptible to an imbalance as any other part of your body is. If one organ, whether it be your pancreas, liver, lung, etc., is susceptible to illness, then so is your brain.

With that being said, my brain is not working, and I have to take medicine. I can’t will myself to not have a mental illness as much as you and I both would love for me to be able to. I can’t get rid of my mental illness by being a better Christian. I can’t ignore my mental illness and wait for it to go away because it will consume me and possibly kill me.

The best way to help me and others with mental illnesses is to get educated! Educate yourself on my mental illness, on all mental illnesses. Open your heart and your mind. Stop the mental health stigma. Stop trying to “cure” us. We have doctors for that. The best way to show us you’re concerned and you love us is to love us through our illnesses, love us when we are unlovable, love us when no one else will.

Allow me to reiterate the things you can do for us:

1. Educate yourself.

2. Stop stigma.

3.Know you can’t cure us.

4. Love us.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Stock photo by iodrakon

Originally published: November 10, 2016
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