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We’re Just People: How We Wish We Could Be Treated, Regardless of Mental Illness

My whole life, people have treated me like I’m special. I was the precocious kid who learned to read and play the piano while in kindergarten and was placed in a gifted program for fourth graders when I was in third grade. I was the high schooler who collected honors and awards.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was constantly being told how talented I was, between my various musical and artistic gifts and my academic abilities. I continued to win honors and compliments.

Then in college, I began to show signs of severe mental illness. The mental illness had been there before but it was hidden. While in college, I became severely mentally ill. So suddenly I was viewed as different due to my strange mental problems and my difficulty coping with everyday life.

Fifteen years later, things are somewhat the same. In my graduate program, I get compliments and honors due to my academic abilities. Outside of school, I am praised for my writing and artistic skills.

And on a personal level, these days I experience a variety of mental illness problems that make my life challenging. People treat me like I am strange if I show symptoms of my mental illnesses. I always seem to be different — different in good ways and bad.

I like winning honors, awards and compliments. I know I’m good at things and know how to do some things well. But I don’t crave compliments. I want to feel like I am “normal.” More than anything, I want to be treated like a normal person.

Every day, I struggle with my experience of multiple personalities. To me, this isn’t bizarre or a crisis. This is my everyday life. When I meet people who allow me to talk casually about my everyday experience of mental illness, without being overly concerned or pulling back, it is amazing.

I would just like to be able to say to someone casually, “Well, I’m having a good day today, but last night my personality T kept me up since she was yelling at me. And I feel like the mania might be starting. It usually happens this time of the month.” I would like to be able to talk about my experience of mental illness casually and have people respond in the same way.

I have good coping skills so these things are manageable for me; they’re more annoying than anything else. I have a whole system for managing mania so it’s never a problem.

You could say that I am a gifted and talented person who has severe mental illnesses. Or you could say I’m just a person who works as a caregiver and goes to school part-time, who loves her husband and spends too much time watching Netflix and surfing Facebook. You could say I complain too much and hate talking on the phone.

You could say I’m just a regular person, who happens to have some giftedness and some mental illness. You could talk in this way about all the people who have mental illnesses. We’re just people who happen to have mental disorders. We’re just people; we’re not something unusual or strange.

It’s a beautiful thing to be able to talk about our mental illnesses in a casual way. I’m not in crisis; I’m just a regular person who wants to be treated like a regular person. I think most of us who have mental illness want that: to be seen as “normal” despite our everyday struggles.

Maybe I have unusual mental problems, particularly with my experience of dissociation. But really, in the end, I am just a person trying to manage my life the best I can.

A version of this article was originally published on Psych Central

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Getty Images photo via phaustov

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