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My Mental Illness Does Not Make Me Less Human

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I was with some people when they made comments about another person supposedly having a mental illness when it wasn’t known if he or she did. I have heard other people say not to take someone seriously because they’re “crazy.” I told them that I have mental illness and that it was no laughing matter. They then said that I wasn’t like those “crazy” people who are “locked up” in psychiatric hospitals.

I am a person with mental illness. Each person with mental illness has potential and, like anyone else, we can achieve great things. And just because one person has achieved much doesn’t mean the mental illness is no longer there.

These moments have left me thinking that people can be really insensitive. They’ve opened my eyes to what some people think about those with mental illnesses — that we should not be taken seriously because we are “sick”; that everything we say is invalidated by the fact that we are “crazy”; that when you are in a psychiatric hospital, you are free to be ignored, to be locked up, and not to be given full attention; that mental illness is something to laugh about, that people who have them should be made fun of while they’re being dismissed as incapable of being reasonable, logical, and sane.

I wish I had responded with anything more than tears and being offended. I wish I had educated them about all the people with mental illness I have encountered. I wish I had let them into how I actually think and feel with my mental illness. I wish I had explained to them that mental illness should never be a laughing matter.

I wish I had educated them that mental illness does not make us any less human. In fact, it makes us more human. They allow us to experience joy and pain in a deeper way. They can make us question reality and truly assess what is and what is not. They make us connect more with other people. Most importantly, they allow us to know how it feels to be at the very bottom, so we do not want other people to also go down there.

I wish I let them see that mental illness does not strip us of our humanity — that we can live equally vibrant and fulfilling lives while making reasonable decisions. I wish I had let them see that we are capable of so much more than they think we are. We’re not just characters in a show or statistics on the news. We are living, breathing people who are capable of hurt and grief, and equally capable of love.

Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: September 16, 2016
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