What is it like to have a mental illness?
What is it like to have a mental illness?
Many people do not understand what it is like to have a mental illness. According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, in every five people, there is one person who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. Macey Bee, a mental health advocate, reveals what she wished people knew about having a mental illness.
I always felt different. At least today I know why. It’s just I sometimes still fear people think I’m crazy because of my insane insecurities. I mean, on the one hand, I am, but on the other, I’m just like everybody else.
And yet, it doesn’t make me feel any less alone. I smile through the hurt because no one seems to notice. No one seems to care, or at least that’s how it feels.I’m not depressed because I can sleep for twelve hours at a time. I sleep for twelve hours because I am depressed.
I’m always anxious because I’m constantly fighting with my brain. I think it’s my obsessive-compulsive disorder that’s the worst of them all.In short, it’s exhausting to have a mental illness.
It is exhausting to have a mental illness
What I wish people knew about me and having a mental illness is that I do want to want to hang out. That is the truth.
Except, sometimes I can’t make myself leave the house.
And just because I went on vacation last week and posted a pretty selfie on Instagram does not mean that I feel good today.
Please don’t ask if I took my meds. Yes, I have. And maybe it works some of the time but not every day. Sometimes I have to isolate because I’m irritable. I don’t want to take it out on you or anyone else, so I hide.
Don’t take it personally. Trust me. It’s emotionally safer for all of us.
If you only knew more about my mental illness
You cannot imagine what it is like to have a mental illness. I’m just as irritated with myself as you are. I try my hardest to hide it, in most cases through fear of rejection. Then when I’m brave enough to tell someone, I’m somehow faced with blank faces and unhelpful remarks.
I am diagnosed with a few mental health challenges so I might have more struggles than most. But that doesn’t mean I should be mocked or laughed at. Unfortunately for me, depression doesn’t just go away merely because something good happens.
When people ask me what is it like to have a mental illness, there are a few things I want you to know. First things first. Every day is a battle —but that’s not the worst part. I’ll now tell you the worst part about my mental illness
What is the worst part about a mental illness
Judgment. To others, my personality traits are annoying. I get it. I didn’t wish this on myself just as I wouldn’t wish this on someone else. The thing is, mental illness runs in my family. So, I was almost predestined to be the person I am today.
I found out scientists believe as many as 40 percent of those with mental health disorders have it because of genetics — environmental and other factors make up the additional 60 percent. Research also shows that people with parents or siblings who have these challenges are up to three times more likely to have the same condition.
So for a while, basically my entire life minus five years ago, I kept everything inside. Even my friends had no idea what my insides were really like until I revealed what I wanted them to see.
Mental illness feels like a crushing weight on my chest, making it hard to breathe. It makes me hopeless, alone, scared of myself, scared of everyone else, helpless, embarrassed, and ashamed.
I self-medicated my mental illness to numb the pain away
And it worked but only for a little while. In the end, it made everything worse. I lost a lot of people along the way. Something good did come of it though because I found myself. I never knew why I was the way I was. I honestly thought everyone else felt this way too. Isn’t it normal? I didn’t understand how people could make white-knuckling look so good?
I didn’t realize that there was a deeper issue here. I don’t think others get that either.
I think they judge me based on my profile picture and think I’m a princess for saying no. The thing is, I have a disease. I’m not the girl I used to be, but I think that’s a good thing.
Yeah, maybe I hibernate a little too much. But I’m allowed to want to feel safe. I’m allowed to set boundaries whether I say them out loud or not. Because far too many times, I’m in my bedroom, drinking tea trying to soothe the crazy inside.
But most people don’t get me or understand what it is like to have a mental illness. They can’t because to them; it makes no sense. They only hear my justifications.
People don’t know the damage I feel, and they don’t see what is invisible. Regardless, it doesn’t give them (or anyone) the right to laugh at my excuses.
I’m stuck between two worlds —my old self and the new me.
It’s hard because the girl I used to be never really existed. I’m a recovering addict and type one diabetic whose life is run by blood sugar checks and daily affirmations. I try not to shame myself for being too weak to go for a jog, for being so anxious I can’t hang out with friends —for not being able to stop my intrusive thoughts on my own.
But you know what, you will never find me giving up. Even though I struggle, I’ll never stop fighting. It may seem like I’m a bad person because of my unanswered messages, but that’s just another boundary I’ve nonverbally set.
This is what I wish people knew about me and what having a mental illness is like.
Today, I fight back
I wish people knew what it is like to have a mental illness.
You may think I’m being weak but what do you know anyway?
You never knew me, and you certainly don’t know the person I’ve become.
I want you to know what is it like to have a mental illness, but you never ask.
If you did want to know what is it like to have a mental illness, I’d tell you that there is a chemical imbalance in my brain that stops me from being able to be your version of normal.
I’d tell you to offer the same compassion you’d show to someone with lupus, cancer, or any other socially acceptable illness. Because more times than not, I feel discrimination and judgment are solely reserved for disorders that fall under the mental health umbrella.
I wish you knew that is pretty normal for me to fake laugh for two hours in the park and then go home and cry myself to sleep. I swing on the swings with a smile on my face and try to laugh away my silent fear.
On the outside, I look happy. On the inside, I’m anything but okay.
And to the public eye after an episode, I look stubborn, selfish and absurd. But that’s the thing about mental illness; it is deceiving as fuck. I mean sometimes, I even think I’m cured, while other days I literally want to die.
A lot of the time, my illnesses make me feel like I am a horrible person: my behavior sometimes fueled by disordered thought patterns.
Trying to tell the difference between what expected behaviors are and what might be the signs of a mental illness isn't always easy.
Sometimes I do things that to the external world are rude, annoying or just mean, but to me, at that time, that particular behavior is completely valid. Maybe I was triggered, or perhaps it’s only one of those days.
I am not trying to make excuses, but I’m not sorry.
I’m just trying to let you know that these things I do aren’t all me. They are a byproduct of my illness. So please, when these times occur, try to see past my behavior and see me for me. I am here.
This is what I wish people knew what it is like to have a mental illness.
My mental illness is about me: not you
I think I blame society as a whole for trying to keep us in boxes. I may be a bag lady, but you can’t label me. And slowly, I’m learning to accept myself despite these irregularities. It’s funny though because I can talk a big game.
I have the tools to succeed, but when someone judges me for bailing, it’s like everything goes out the window. But that’s just another challenge, and I intend to overcome it. Because today, I’m more me than I’ve ever been. And I want you to say the same.
As Life Coach, Danielle Laporte once said,
“you will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge.”
So apologize for unintentionally hurting someone.
Say you’re sorry when you need to.
But never apologize for being exactly who you are.
What is it like to have a mental illness is adapted and republished from Macey Bee's blog, Way To Much Too Say.
Mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. I’m a writer to the bones. Quotes and music are my life. Let’s change the world one word at a time.