How People Make Mental Illness Even Harder

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Have you ever lost your mind? Like really lost it to the point where you can’t think straight, to the point where you can’t even talk? The mind is a very powerful thing and when it is compromised so is your entire life. May is mental health month, and it is important that we acknowledge the reality of what people face and how serious this issue really is, but most importantly how people are dealing with it, and the things they are doing wrong.

The Demise of Being Mentally Ill

The hardest part of having a mental illness is knowing that there is no cure. In some cases, like with Borderline Personality Disorder you can master DBT skills and actually diminish the degree of your disorder. It has been reported that symptoms can go away completely. In any case, improvements can occur, and any given person can be successful if they take care of themselves, however battling a mental illness is work in progress and there will likely be periods when you are not okay. As much as we explain ourselves, there are always those people who think it is hocus pocus—the words “mental illness” have no bearing on them. As much as we might attempt to articulate that we were not ourselves in that moment, people still hold it against you. They suddenly start to look at you as a liability. The truth is no one wants drama, most people can’t deal with emotions and their is a lack of concern for people’s mental well being. Instead it’s considered strange behavior that is not welcome. Despite who you truly are, the moment you say or do the wrong thing that suddenly becomes you. You can sense that people are worried about you, that they are weary of you and they simply can’t accept that some people suffer from illness that affects their behavior. Physical illness renders instant sympathy because you can see the pain, but you can’t look into someone’s mind. A mentally ill person appears to be “normal”, which makes it even harder for people to accept that something is truly wrong.

What Are People Doing Wrong?

Instead of trying to help or understand, people are running scared. Instead of finding a way to include a person with sickness, people decide to exclude them. Suddenly, not only are you dealing with the wrath of your illness, but you are also mourning the fact that you are now a social outcast. In some cases, sick behavior is perceived as being so strange that people don’t want to be associated with it, and they can ‘t see past it regardless of your condition. People will actually say thing to you like, “having mental illness isn’t an excuse.” Well those people clearly don’t know what it means to lose your mind. They don’t get how hard it was to come clean about your condition, and how painful it is when people are just too ignorant to understand. Mental illness scares people, and I have met more than one person who has told me that they don’t have the capacity to deal with a suicidal person. Imagine reaching out for help only to be shunned.

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What People Can Do Differently?

For starters, people have to let go of their fears. Once they hear the word “suicide”, they automatically suggest seeking professional help. When a lot of times, all that person needs is someone to talk to. Suicide is monitored by 4 P’s, pain, previous history, plan and pluses. It’s a plus if they’ve called you in the first place. This means they are reaching out for help oppose to just attempting suicide without anyone knowing. You can help so much more then you think, and you should prepare yourself to be a help to anyone facing mental health issues. You don’t have to understand, but you can empathize, by trying to put yourself in their shoes, and you can reflect, paraphrase back what you are hearing. Let them know that you can identify their emotional state. Try to get a no harm agreement, which means that the person promises not to harm themselves after the call, and if they get the urge, they will call you back or call 1-800-SUICIDE or any other crisis line number. Instead of excluding mentally ill people from events, find a way to include them. Make them feel comfortable, and ensure that they are in the right spirits to be at a social gathering. If the person is really sick, communicate to them why it’s not a good that they attend, and explain that their health comes first and they need to get better before they can participate in certain things. Communicating that they need to be well is okay because that person has to understand what the consequences will be if they decide to do nothing about their condition. Acknowledge a change in a sick person, don’t hold the past against them. Trust them when they are better and believe in them. If you see changes, embrace them, and let that person know how things are different. We have to encourage sick people to get better. We mustn’t treat them like they are a hazard because it’s perfectly possible for mentally ill people to succeed. There is such a thing as recovery and management, which will make the world of difference. Gaining self-awareness is key because you will likely find that when you are self-aware, you are more successful. Accepting you are sick, and accepting that in some cases this means medication for the rest of your life is challenging, but the sooner you do it the better you will will feel.

Why Do People Make it So Hard?

People often don’t want to be brought down by negative realities. People care about how others view them, and they don’t want you to be a problem or an embarrassment to them. There has likely been moments in the past when you couldn’t mask your sickness, and people don’t forget about those times. You suddenly become untrusted. Simply, people are not trained, wired, or taught how to deal with mental illness. Also, they need to trust the person’s own self assessments. If they feel up to something, you should give them the benefit of the town. Trust that they are sick and didn’t have the control that they have now. People can make a lot of improvements when they are working on themselves. They do need you to understand that negative matters of the past took place when you were sick, but when you are well, your more then fine to get through the evening without any hiccups.

The Truth, People Really Need to Know

Having good supports in place is what keeps you alive. People who accept you exactly the way that you are, and love you exactly the way that you are. People who will listen to you despite what chaos might be going on in their own world. Don’t turn your back on a friend if they start acting funny or “weird”. Always remind yourself that there nay be more to to the situation like mental health issues. Try to help, and you can do this just by being there or lending an ear. Asking them to do something, or just checking in to see how thing are going. Growing the courage to be there and be there for your friend when they are not 100% okay. We have to learn that while a lot of people deal with their stress privately, some people have chronic illness, which makes it hard for them to keep it hidden from the public eye. We need to love people no matter what state they are in because our love is going to help them get better. They say mental health affects 1/5 when I believe it is closer to ¼, the truth is mental health affects everybody.

If you are not feeling right, if you are feeling depressed or anxious. If you are having delusions, episodes or hearing voices. If you have a little too much energy, and feel high and feel manic. If you catch your self suffering in any way that affects your mental health, don’t suppress it, get help. There is help out there, and while we still need to change society’s perception of mental illness, we as a community of survivors can know that it is a very serious matter that needs our attention. Mental health laws need to be place, especially in the workforce. No one should be fired for any kind of sickness whether it be physical or mental. There should be a thing such as a “mental health day”, which operates like a sick day and prevents the not well employee from having to work or bringing his or her symptoms into work. Universities are very understanding of mental health issues and will give allowances to students who need it. A lot of change must come, which puts mental health on the map as a mandatory order.

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What’s The Real Message?

People with mental illness are not hopeless. They can get better with the proper treatments, life routines and supports. Someone who has a mental illness should never be discriminated upon. Despite their challenges, that person has learned coping strategies and knows how to deal with them. When you are mentally ill the best thing you can learn is how to take care of yourself. The moment you are doing that and sticking to it, anything is possible. It makes sense (even if it’s painful) why people cut you out, ignore you or fire you. When you are presenting symptoms you create challenges that can be hard to overcome. You just might not be well enough yet to be a good friend or a capable worker. You could have all the potential in the world, but if you’re showing signs of sickness you’re not going to be successful. This is because your main goal is to take care of yourself, and you don’t have it in you to support other commitments. Regardless, all you have to do is get better, and the truth is, for some this doesn’t fully happen. Though it’s very possible to rise above your mental health issues. You can’t let anything or anyone bring you don’t. You have to radically accept your loses and concentrate on the supports in your life who understand, or at least try to. Don’t waste your time with people who can’t handle it. That has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. In some cases, people are going through their own turmoil and don’t have the strength to deal with others. In other cases, people lack the capacity for emotions. Other people just live better in denial. You can beg and plead for understanding, but some people just aren’t going to give it to you. Some people don’t care what you’ve got, you’ve rubbed them the wrong way and now they are done with you. Ask yourself the quality of people you want to surround yourself with, and it’s likely open, empathic and encouraging people who don’t define you by your illness.  

I know a girl who has Bipolar I disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. Her close friend didn’t want her at her wedding. She didn’t trust that her friend was in a good place mentally, and of course didn’t want there to be any trouble at her wedding. The uninvited sick girl was still showing symptoms of illness and therefore she wasn’t welcome to the “normal” social affair. Needless to say this was very painful for the sick girl as she felt like she was being treated like a crazy person opposed to a human being who suffers from real health issues that should be taken seriously. Would this bride be more accommodating if the issue was physical illness? Probably, because that’s a socially accepted form of illness that doesn’t bluntly impose upon others. The insight that the bride lacked is knowing that this sick girl was very aware of her mental health issues. For any important event she stays conscious with herself the entire time, doesn’t drink much, and literally watches every words she says and every move she makes. Also, this girl knew she was sick and that she probably wouldn’t make it to the wedding regardless. Still this bride to be, felt the need to remind this girl that she has issues, is not well, and therefore not invited. It’s just a perfect example of how the mentally ill are treated. People don’t trust them and view them as unpredictable, which is unfortunate. People need to give more credit to the mentally ill. When they are aware of it, they know not to socialize or go to family functions. They don’t want to bring other people down. They want to do right by people, and they just want to be loved and accepted. Oppose to picked on all the time, or told what they could do differently. It’s the type of self-improvement that takes a village, so it takes time, but with each year, you learn more and grow stronger and become more equipped to deal with your mental health. People shouldn’t assume the worst of you, just because they know of the worst. When you are doing well, you are just as good as anyone else, and you can achieve great things. As one DBT counsellor once told me, “they are superpower.” It’s up to you if you want to look at it in a negative light, but it’s probably made you more empathic, more understanding and more inclined to help someone else. This life is too short to live it just for you, do what you can for others. It’s good to be well and be there for yourself, but it’s also good to give back. Stop making everything about you and your life. There are no excuses for how you treat people. Take what you’ve been through and turn it into to life lessons. You’ve learned a lot about life, pain, experience, and emotion. You have a lot of wisdom to pass down. You are worth a lot, no matter who fails to see it.