It was high school, I was sitting in the counseling office waiting to meet with an adviser about graduation. I could overhear a blond girl in my grade talking to the woman at the front desk about her struggling attendance. The girl explained that she was exhausted all the time and couldn’t wake up until late every afternoon.
I don’t know what was causing this issue for the girl. But, I shamefully remember listening to her while thinking, “What a lazy person. Who struggles that with that much sleep? Why on earth would she throw away her high school degree to sleep?
Someone needs to grow up and face responsibilities.” It was too easy to judge what I didn’t understand! However, little did I know, I was going to eventually understand her whether I wanted to or not.
As I got into my twenties, I noticed that life became more of a struggle. I was soon institutionalized and diagnosed with chronic depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. That is when I consequently had to face the reality that my life wouldn’t ever be the same.
I went from looking down on those that wrestled with mental illness to being one of them. Now having this perspective, here are five facts that would have helped me to understand mental illness before making judgments.
1. Those That Are Diagnosed With Mental Illness Are Ordinary People Around You.
Shows, like Criminal Minds, taught me that people with depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are dangerous.
They should be locked in a mental hospital before they hurt someone. Now that I’ve been in a mental hospital, I know that they are ordinary, everyday, people. Yes, there are some extreme cases, but you wouldn’t know that most of the patients had a mental illness if you meet them on the street.
2. Mental Illness Is Not a Phase, It’s An Actual Illness.
After a breakup, you get depressed and eat a tub of ice cream in the bathtub. That is not the kind of depression I am talking about. Post breakup blues will consequently go away. True depression, on the other hand, will always be there.
I’ve had to learn to accept that this is an illness, and like being diagnosed with diabetes, my life is going to be a little different from now on. I now must take a handful of medicine every day for the rest of my life.
This will help control my mental illness, but it won’t make it go away. My depression and anxiety are lifelong diagnoses.
3. Mental Illness Is Not An Excuse To Get Out Of Doing Things.
I feel empty and numb in my depression. I worry and become overwhelmed from my anxiety. I can spend days lying in bed doing absolutely nothing. I am exhausted all the time and can easily oversleep an entire day. This makes me look lazy, particularly when I have work, school, and other responsibilities that I don’t get to. But the truth is, I am far from lazy.
Constantly fighting with my mind is exhausting! Everything I do is a battle. I can’t tell you how big of a success it is every time I take a shower.
It’s difficult to be understood when trying my best looks like I’m doing the bare minimum. I would love to not struggle with mental illness and do everything that I want to.
Sure, some days it’s nice to lie in bed all day watching an entire season on Netflix, but trust me, it gets old fast.
4. It’s Not You, It’s Me… And My Mental Illness.
There are so many texts that I let go unanswered because I can’t bring myself to reply. I don’t want to admit how I am doing. I am terrified of getting out of the house. I’m too exhausted to make conversation.
I have ruined so many friendships because I couldn’t handle them. So, I want you to know that it’s not your fault.
I’m not avoiding you because of something you have done or said. I’m glad you are my friend and I am regretful that my mental illness tends to get in the way.
5. So, What Can You Do To Help Those With Mental Illness?
That’s a fantastic question. The first thing you can do is don’t be like my pre-mental illness self and judge those with mental illness. Yes, we can look lazy or irrational at times, but we are not that different from everybody else.
Don’t try and fix those that you know who are struggling with a mental illness. We are not broken, we have an illness. Also, please don’t give us advice unless we ask for it. We most likely have a trained professional for that.
It can be hard for us to reach out for help and support. So, please be the one to initiate contact. Text your friend with depression. Drop off a card to the neighbor with anxiety. Visit your aunt with schizophrenia.
Don’t be afraid to talk to them about their mental illness. It’s a large part of their life so it’s okay to check in on how it’s going. Plus, the more we talk about mental illness the less of a taboo it will become.
Also, please be patient with us. Don’t get offended if we don’t text back, or cancel plans at the last minute. Remember that we are trying our best and that is all anyone can ask for.
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