So I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about mental illness(hereafter referred to as MI). Whether it be from people who are experiencing it like myself, people who are related to/supporting friends/family in their daily life, or people who just need a different perspective.
My diagnosis is Bipolar Disorder with a co-morbidity of Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and PTSD. I’m not ashamed of this or my diagnosis. However I would like to emphasize something: *I* am choosing to disclose this information. No one owes you this and each person handles talking about their MI differently.
I would also like to start this with a disclaimer. I am one mentally ill person. I do not speak for all of us. These ten things are patterns I’ve noticed in the way people deal with me, as well as people who don’t have a lot of information on mental illness.
Number 1: Do not keep things from me because you think it’s going to start drama or cause issues/conflict.
If you are in my life it’s because I want you there. If you are in my life I also do my best to accept you. So when I say this, I say it with love: if I’ve done something to hurt or offend you, you NEED to tell me. If you don’t the behavior will continue and you will start to resent me. Be blunt, upfront, and honest.
Even if you think you’re avoiding drama? You aren’t helping yourself or me. In fact, you’re setting the stage for some pretty epic misunderstandings and hurt. Communication is everything. If we’re going to stay in each other’s lives? We need to communicate.
Let me learn to be a better friend/relative to you. Honesty stings a lot, but it also helps us look at ourselves and our behavior. Sometimes I need that outside perspective and sometimes you do too.
Number 2: My brain works differently than yours. Allow me to process things.
This ties in with number one, but my brain does work differently. Everyone has different ways they cope. For me in particular, I have a great fear of doing something wrong. So when I’ve hurt you or you criticize me, I’m going to need time to sort through my feelings. I may not want to talk to you a bit. I’m probably going to be very emotional. However, let me have this.
This is going to effect me. I let you process how you must
However, you telling me that I’ve hurt you or trying to talk to me about a situation, the way I react to it and process it? That’s called coping. You aren’t responsible for what I choose to cope with. If I use maladaptive coping mechanisms like cutting (I’ve been fighting my need to self mutilate since I was a teenager and it’s something I’ll struggle with for the rest of my life), THAT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. If I go off the rails THAT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
I chose to pick up the razor blade. I can’t control the way my mental illness interacts with my life, but I do have choices. So me picking up that razor blade isn’t your fault. If you give the the razor blade or drugs etc. you’re enabling me and we clearly need to talk about whether you should be in my life or not, but I’m making the choice.
Number 3: My anxiety is very very real and when I tell you I’m about to have an anxiety attack, I need you to listen. And no, I’m not trying to manipulate a situation or make your life harder and, yeah, it’s kinda shitty for you to think that.
There was a situation a concert when I was younger. I’d been sick all weekend and I went anyways. I enjoyed some of it, but as the day went on I started to go into overdrive. Everything was too much, I was overstimulated. It ended up in me having an anxiety attack, my parents having to pick me up, and then I had to go to the ER where they gave me medication to help me deal with the anxiety attacks I had after I left the venue and when they were driving me home.
I do not fake anxiety attacks. I will never fake one. I’m actually more likely to have an anxiety attack because I don’t want to ask you to take a break from whatever we’re doing because I don’t want to be a burden or an inconvenience.
It’s extremely hard for me to tell someone that I need a minute. Part of it is the aforementioned inconvenience thing and the fact that I don’t trust people to believe me. Most of my friends know to ask. I have one friend I go to concerts with all the time and we made a system. Another friend I like to go to concerts with has known me for most of my life and checks in with me. Recently I went to DragonCon (a sci-fi/fantasy/nerd convention) and I went with someone who listened to me. When I needed a break they accommodated it. I had an amazing time.
I will let you know if I need a minute. Please let me have that minute.
Number 4: I hate cancelling, but sometimes my anxiety, PTSD, and/or depression. makes it hard for me to leave the house. Please don’t stop inviting me out, because I’m trying, even if you don’t see it. Keep inviting me. Please. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to show up.
Just like everyone else I have good days and bad days. On good days I try to be productive and rejoin the ‘real world.’ If I cancelled plans with you, I’ve cancelled plans that whole day. Most of the time? Me cancelling has nothing to do with you.
Sometimes I can do things later in that week, keep plans I’ve made with other people. Or I may have a good day and a friend invites me out and I can go because I’m good that day. That doesn’t mean that I love that person more or that I don’t want to see you.
Sometimes timing is everything. Especially with something as unpredictable as my mental illness.
Number 5: Yes I am aware that my mental illness influences a lot of my choices, far more aware than you are. It does not mean I’m unintelligent or that other people are to blame for the choices I’m making. Please do not patronize me.
One of the most disgusting and insulting experiences I’ve ever had as a human being involved a friend who treated me like my mental illness made me less intelligent. This person would make comments about the fact that I’d been drinking and making ‘bad choices’ and that it was because my mental illness made me susceptible to being influenced by other people’s bad lifestyle choices. They tried to get me to cut people out of my life. They would make snide comments about the partying I was doing at the time and how I was just “following stupid friends and bad influences.”
There was a time that I used drinking as a coping mechanism. My person, one of the people they assumed that was ‘bad for me,’ was the person who convinced me to stop. He told me that ‘drinking like a soap opera star’ wasn’t good and my friends wanted to have fun with me, not isolate myself and drink my troubles away.
I would like to reiterate, if I do something like drink a whole bottle or tequila or cut, that is my decision. I assure you I’m stubborn as hell and well aware that I have some very escapist tendencies, however I am in control of my actions.
Number 6: If you see troubling patterns or behavior. If you’re concerned. TALK TO ME.
Sometimes, if I’m having a bad bipolar episode, I may not realize it for what it is. I tend to be self aware, but I’m guilty of denial. If you’re concerned? Please talk to me. It may be the push I needed to go to my doctor and fix my medication.
Number 7: If I’m hospitalized it isn’t always because I tried to kill myself.
Out of my seven or so hospitalizations, five have been for attempted suicide. Two were so that my psychiatrist could monitor me while they recalibrated my meds. I have six doctors. Not all of those doctors communicate with each other. So sometimes, I have to be monitored while all of my doctors change my medication so that I don’t end up becoming suicidal or hurting myself.
I have a friend that is super anti-suicide and considers it the weakest thing you can do. When I was hospitalized one of those two times they tried to end their friendship with me over it. My person called them and explained what I just told you. That friend turned out to be one of the only people who visited me during that stay.
Number 8: I am never a danger to others. The only person I can be a danger to is myself.
There’s a pretty sickening assumption that mentally ill people are dangerous. Some are. But statistically, mentally ill people are more of a danger to themselves and are far more likely to be harmed by others.
I do not harm others. I actually bottle up my anger because I’m scared to be like my dad. I tend to always take things out on myself and my body. I have the copious scars on my body that prove that.
Number 9: Lastly, my medication isn’t a cure and yes I need it.
Not every person with mental illness needs medication. Some people only need it for a little while. Some people manage it with therapy and a healthy lifestyle. There are a million different ways. For me, personally,.I very much need it.
Everytime I’ve gone off of my medications I’ve ended up suicidal. Most of that time I’ve attempted it. That has nothing to do with you. My brain chemistry is weird, different. So the things I need to function are not what you may need.
It can take months or, sometimes, to get the right medication combination. And, yes, eventually my body will acclimate and it’ll need to be adjusted. There is no cure for mental illness. This is how I stay here. If you’re going to judge me for it? You will not be in my life.
❤ Lady Lynx