Over the past 10 years there have been important strides with raising awareness about mental health. Especially since COVID, people are more open to listening and sharing their vulnerable truths. Although this is way better than we were a decade ago, there is so much room for growth in order to go beyond just awareness but actually destigmatizing mental health and illness. It starts with empathy. However for a virtually invisible illness that happens in the brain/mind, people only really extend grace and tenderness and empathy when you are in the height of an episode. When you look at people who live with mental illness they share their stories about how they got diagnosed, the narratives of their episodes and hospitalizations. This is a perspective that 10 years ago the stigma would never allow for people to share. Which is amazing. But beyond this, you do not hear a lot of people sharing their every day in the life truths about being a person LIVING with a mental illness.
Like me. I’m someone with 3 mental illness diagnosis’ most of which you would never know unless I disclosed this because I appear to be high functioning or what they call “normal”
It takes ALOT of discipline, maintenance and sacrifice for me to be able to show up to work each day. For me to tap into my social life and interact with others and also it affects me as a creative/artist. In my experience, and I do not blame them, but the most empathy and grace and tenderness I’ve received in regard to this disability has only been felt when I was strapped down in a hospital bed. Or I was in the midst of an episode. Or i was crying. Very very rarely do people extend those same grace, courtesies, empathy and tenderness on a typical day.
On a typical day, I have challenges with triggers, flashbacks, ability to focus, energy, isolation and ruminating thoughts. Let me say that again. On a TYPICAL day. These are all things I experience on average. Every day. I have certain routines and structures in my life that help me navigate so that I can typically have a relatively normal/productive day. Especially with the proper medication regiment. However I want people to understand, if one of these areas are experienced intensely one day it will directly impact how I am able to show up. And I know that when I don’t show up as the person people have romanticized me to be…I’m often not afforded much grace, empathy, grace or courtesy.
This is why I tell people. Do not put me on no pedestal. Do not romanticize me. I will, have and have so many chances to fuck up. And I will keep making mistakes and I might not be showing up as my best self always. But I do try. Choose grace.
So what does this look like for me in real life?
Here are some examples. For instance, If someone is trying to explain a long story to me or give me instructions/directions or show me how to use a form of technology that I’m not familiar with. I often get lost. I can’t understand. I can’t focus. And people get frustrated with me and at times even talk down to me. Hate it when I feel like that.
Or when I’m just having a really really sad day and I fight my urge to isolate and reach out to someone to tell them I’m sad and the first thing they ask is “are you taking your meds?” Hate it when I feel like that.
There have been times when I’m in a social setting and someone is just talking really badly about someone else and calling them “crazy” or “bipolar” because of surface things. And I just listen. Hate it when I feel like that.
I’ve had a loud noise startle me and completely ruin my mood and instead of being asked “are you okay?” People immediately say “what’s wrong with you?” That’s if they even bother to ask. Hate it when I feel like that.
Other times someone may have said something sarcastic or hyper critical about me showing up as me. Or maybe I got in a disagreement with someone and they said something hurtful. I will keep thinking about what they said over and over. And analyzing why they said that. Or why i did/said what i did. A lot of the time people say “well I was just joking” or “don’t take things so personally” and that just gives me more things to think about intensely. Hence anxiety. Hate it when I feel like that.
I’ve walked in a room and immediately felt bad energy. And so I might come off quiet, reserved and to myself. And I’ve had people literally be upset with me that I “wasn’t being myself” or they question my character…hate it when I feel like that.
These are just a few examples of how my illness affects me. Socially atleast. And how people tend to respond instead of grace.
The truth is that I’m sure people don’t intend to treat people with mental illness this way, the truth is they just forget. They can’t see it so they forget. And they don’t realize this sort of behavior further adds to perpetuating stigma and adds on to the grief, guilt and shame that you already carry as a person living with mental illness.
I share this to say:
be more kind to others
be slower to criticize and quicker to empathize constructively
listen for understanding
be impeccable with your word
let people just be real people ☎️
This is a powerful message about the importance of empathy and understanding towards those living with mental illness. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and shedding light on the challenges faced on a daily basis. We can all strive to be more kind and compassionate towards one another.
founder of balance thy life
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Thank you 🙏🏾