Mental Illness from Within

I feel like mental illness is really difficult for people to grasp if they’ve never experienced it or if they’ve only experienced something slightly, or in a moment of grief or high stress or situational dis-ease, but not chronic mental illness. Many people will try to see it through their own understanding instead of admit its something beyond their experience or comprehension. Many people will see the expression of my emotion and they’ll relate it to their own and project their history on me, like I am simply making a mistake they’ve made and the answer is so simple.

If the answer was simple, it wouldn’t be an epidemic. If the answer was simple, we’d be fine. If the answer was simple there probably wouldn’t be an entire profession, including diagnosis, treatment and research, for us.

If the answer to mental illness was simple, I wouldn’t be sick.

But it isn’t simple.

We’re talking about the most complex organ of the body, the most mysterious, the most adaptive and ever changing. Not to mention, we are being diagnosed based on OUTSIDE appearances and behaviors, though the thing that’s wrong is INSIDE our minds, which can only be accessed through talking to us, and even then you’re not getting the whole story because a therapist who sees me one hour every two weeks couldn’t possibly get the whole story.

Its ok that you might not understand what people with mental illness go through. It’s ok if you can’t handle it, and it’s ok if you don’t learn about it. What’s not ok is that you put your own stories, assumptions, projections, and expectations on those of us who are suffering BECAUSE you can’t or won’t understand it.

The truth, though, from inside the mind of a mentally ill person, is that if I think of myself as a mentally ILL person, and hang out with people who only treat me like that, I will self destruct. I don’t want to be treated like I can’t handle “the truth” or like I’m some loose canon. I’m not and I know I’m not. But when I am in emotional distress, and very aware of it and reaching out for help, I really don’t need to be further isolated by someone who wants to speak to my illness and not to me. I am the person, human being, Rachel–not the illness. Talk to ME. I have BIG emotions sometimes, and those emotions are super tough and a lot of people don’t experience them or have a mind that can shut them down or out. I do not.

I spent much of my life going through periods of suicidal thoughts, grief, big emotions–grief, insignificance, existential worthlessness, constant failure, misunderstood, isolation, dissociation, derealization, terror, suffering…alone for most of it. Its the route of communication that my mind has accepted very readily because its the route of communication that was establishing while my mind was growing and developing.
I will continue to have suicidal thoughts and episodes. It’s a fact. If you’re close to me, you should know that, and let me know if you can’t be there for me in those moments. I can only get better one moment at a time. Yesterday, and this week, I fought my ass off against my illness–and I won. I am alive, and my feelings have passed, and the residue left over is being cleared with this post and a lot of journaling that will follow. But either way, a fierce competitor met me in battle yesterday and the wager was my safety–and I fucking won. So this is a day I should be celebrating and instead I am riddled with shame and afraid I’m messing everything up by being vulnerable, by having emotions, by needing help every once in a while, by being the person I am. I feel ashamed for having fought and won.

Thing is, these emotions I feel aren’t so different than the one’s everyone else feels. And for me they manifest in physical pain, which is also not unique. But they also come with great cognitive awareness–meaning when they happen they affect my mood, and my physical body, and my mind talk. Not everyone lets these emotions be more than a mood, and that’s great they have that capacity. I do not.

Truly, as much of a burden as my illness is, I think it is a godsend to some extent–maybe because thinking of it any other way makes me miserable, maybe because it really is. The fact that I can’t commit to either one as a definite reality is another curse/blessing. Either way, my illness is made easier through vulnerable expression of its thoughts and processing as it happens, unfortunately. But ever since I started being vulnerable I’ve had so many people tell me they were helped by or inspired by what I share. If I can help others through the knowledge I gain from suffering from this illness then it somehow makes the illness more bearable, less of a life sentence and more of a thing of purpose.

Because be assured, this emotional/mental awareness is a life sentence, an absolute prison, if another perspective on it isn’t sought and continuously reminded and affirmed.

I’m not crazy, stupid, unaware, self-centered, or unworthy of compassion and understanding. My perspective is not inherently wrong simply because it is different or seen through the eyes of my experience. I am not a drama queen for feeling the things I feel, I’m not seeking attention, I’m not on a drug bender. I’m not lazy because I can’t get out of the house some days. I’m not a stain on society because I can’t work full time.
I’m really annoyed by people second guessing me simply because they lack the full capacity to understand me or have run out of patience and don’t know how to just say it. Someone told me its not other people’s job to understand me. I guess they’re right. But I take that “job” as a simple piece of connecting with other members of humanity. So if it’s really work that you can’t do, I guess that’s fine for you. I on the other hand empathize with my own abusers to my own demise sometimes, without trying. Perhaps that’s what makes me miserable. Perhaps not. Frankly, that’s between me and my therapist anyway.

Point is, I’m not just reliving the projection of YOUR worst moment in life. If you see me through your eyes and you don’t suffer what I suffer, you’ll always be disappointed. This isn’t even my rock bottom. My rock bottom was way worse than where I’m at now. I am not you at your rock bottom and just missing the simple solution you found to get better. I am actually doing well, for me, whether you can see it or not.

So please, just stop with the assumptions and stigma.

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