It can be hard to understand someone you love who struggles with mental illness. Don’t worry, they don’t expect you to get it all the time! Sometimes I don’t even understand myself! But, as with anything, education is the key to understanding. Here are some thinks I wish people understood about living with mental illness:
- Sometimes the hardest part of my day is opening my eyes in the morning: It’s true. Where you may roll over dreading your alarm clock, for me it is terror and anxiety and depression. It is feeling like I weigh a million pounds and there is no way I can even blink or try to get up. It is my heart racing at the thought of everything that could go wrong today. It is the idea that as long as I stay under the covers no one or nothing can hurt me or anyone I love.
- I Hate Myself When I Cancel Plans: Sometimes my anxiety and depression is so bad I have to cancel plans. And it sucks. I guarantee I was looking forward to going to that party or concert or bar or lunch or shopping spree or whatever it was. When I cancel plans with people I tear myself apart because I would have been miserable going to said event, but then feel so guilty about cancelling it spirals me into an even deeper depression.
- I Ask Questions Because I Care: Sometimes I send randome questions to people I love. Why? To make sure they are ok. I have a constant stream of “What If’s” going through my head, and when that person comes up in my brain, sometimes I text or snap or contact them in some way, just to make sure they are safe. Then I contradict myself because I don’t want them to think I am paranoid. YAY ANXIETY.
- I Still Have Bad Days on Medication: Medication is not a catch all pill that fixes everything in the world and makes unicorns and rainbows pop out of the sky. I still have bad days even though I take medication. And it those bad days are much more bearable now that I have medication, but it doesn’t mean they suck less.
- Everyone’s Mental Health is Different: Please don’t compare me to someone else you know that has depression. They react completely different than me. The worst is when people say “well (insert name) has depression and they were fine at the (insert event), you probably could have come.” That just isn’t how it works.
- I Am Not About To Crack: I promise. I am not some person who is going to split at the seams if you say the wrong thing. I know my mental illness. Sometimes triggers sneak up on me, but usually I can safely get myself out of a situation before my anxiety or depression gets debilitating. And I PROMISE there is not one thing you could say to me (within reason) that would send me spiraling down the black hole of panic attacks.
- Panic Attacks Are A Black Hole: Different people have different types of panic attacks. For me, it feels like I have been underwater far too long and I am trying to break the surface for air. I can’t breath. I hyperventilate. My heart races. I cry. And my brain is racing so fast I can’t keep up. Usually I barely even remember what happened during the panic attack. But I am usually good enough to tell you what I need. All you have to do is ask: what can I do to help? Then just listen. Sometimes I need to be alone. Sometimes people need to talk to me about things that aren’t related to anything.
- It Hurts When People I Love Are Ashamed Of My Mental Illness But It Is OK To Be Uncomfortable: The people I love, they are my world and my support. And if someone is ashamed of my mental illness it hurts very deeply. When people talk bad about mental illness or put it down or aren’t supportive of others with mental illness, I get extremely frustrated and it can really affect my day. Being open about mental illness can be uncomfortable and there is a huge difference between being ashamed and uncomfortable. If you are uncomfortable talking about mental illness, try to consider why that might be, then work on ways to fix it!
Mental illness can be a tough conversation to have. And if you are the loved one of someone with a mental illness you probably mean more than you know to them.
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