I hope this doesn’t come out all wrong. This has been on my mind a lot lately, and I hope my tone isn’t misunderstood. I just want to spread some understanding.
When I tell you about my mental illness, I am not looking for sympathy or pity.
I am not trying to be a victim.
I’m not saying “wo is me!”
I am not begging for help.
What I am seeking is empathy. Just like everyone else in the world—including you—I just want to be understood.
When a person with a mental illness is well enough to function in society—to get out of bed, to answer the phone, to give service in the community, to go to the store, to go to school or work, to spend time with friends—many people end up assuming that either they don’t really have a mental illness or it must not be that bad.
Some people may assume anxiety is like the nervousness they get during a job interview.
Some may think depression is just like the sadness they get when their favorite team loses or their dog dies.
Its natural to try to fit other people into our own life experiences and perspectives, but when we do this, we often get it wrong.
People with mental illnesses need you to understand that they have to work a million times as hard as you do to function at the same level.
It takes a million times as much effort for us to do what you are able to do without a second thought.
We may appear just as mentally healthy as you from the outside, you may not be able to see our mental illness, but we feel our symptoms and have to push through them with strength that those without mental illnesses cannot even fathom.
So please, don’t write off my mental illness.
And don’t assume anything.
Instead, really seek to understand it.
Do a little research online to learn about it.
Talk to me about it and really seek to put yourself in my shoes and try to understand what its like to live with it.
What I am also seeking is a little recognition for my efforts.
I don’t see myself as someone needing pity. I don’t see myself as a victim.
I see myself as a victor. I see myself as amazing.
And when you seek to truly understand what its like to have a mental illness and are able to see me as a person just like who also has a mental illness, you will see what I know: I am not weak at all. I am incredibly strong.
You will understand that it takes immense strength for me to do the things that those without mental illness take for granted. Every time I am able to get out of the house I am a champion because I am overcoming immense opposition from my mental illness.
You will understand that I am working harder than everyone around me to do the tasks that they are all doing without an ounce of discomfort.
And that deserves respect.
I want you to be proud of me for working so hard. A person working to function well with a mental illness is an incredible human being.
We celebrate people who battle other diseases, why not mental illnesses as well?
And finally, I am seeking a little kindness and patience.
Even those strong, amazing individuals who daily fight for a normal life despite a mental illness don’t succeed every minute or every day.
Just as you would with anyone else, be compassionate when I’m not my best, and try to accommodate me a little.
I don’t want a free ride, just an even playing field.