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One of the Best Things You Can Do For Someone With a Severe Mental Illness

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Having an episode of psychosis or mania is hard. Trying to put the pieces of my life back together afterward is brutal. But the things society says to me every day chip away pieces of myself, even when I should be repairing the damage.

Once a psychotic episode is over and I can think rationally, the things I did and said while psychotic cause me great shame. Not only do I have to live with telling people I was Jesus, how the government was out to get me, that I was being filmed or recorded or any number of other delusions I may have during an episode, I also have to live with the day to day barrage of messages from the outside — messages that tell me I’m dangerous and that my illness is something to make light of, even make fun of. I have to live with that stigma. 

I’m not going to go into all of the jokes and memes people say on social media every day that chip away at my self-esteem, but I will say that even people who like to call themselves progressive, loving and accepting join in the “fun.” Even people who think they are sensitive to social situations and people who are marginalized toss out words like insane, nut-job, lunatic and pass around cartoons depicting a “crazy” lady with PMS.

When I see those words written from people who claim to like or love me, all I feel from them is a lack of understanding and hate. Yes, I literally feel as if they are sending hate at those who live with mental illness, and at me. Everyone in my life knows that I have schizophrenia. Anyone that wants to know what schizophrenia is like can read my book, Pills, Poetry & Prose: Life with Schizophrenia, read my blog or even more amazing, they can ask me.

If someone were to ask me what having schizophrenia is like, I would tell them it can be like going to a place with your worst fears, and living those fears out for days, weeks and possibly months. Are you afraid of being tortured? You will believe you are about to be tortured. Are you afraid of going to jail? You will believe you are going to jail. And then sometimes during psychosis, you will even be afraid of things you didn’t know you were afraid of. I can think of nothing more appropriate to call it than hell on earth. In the beginning psychosis is usually pleasant for me, but it always turns to terror over time, and that terror is total and complete.

So, if you ever wonder what you can do for someone with a severe mental illness, I have a suggestion: You can help build them up. The world is already constantly tossing self-esteem battering messages their way. You can be the change in their lives. You can help them see their talents. You can help them see their strengths. You can point out their positives. You can be kind to them, because it is tough. It is so damn tough, and we all get tired. It’s exhausting to constantly tell yourself you’re OK when the world says differently. It’s almost impossible to fight the world on your own. Be an ally. Spread the love.


A version of this post originally appeared on A Journey With You.

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Originally published: June 15, 2015
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