The 4 Letter Word You Can Use For Anyone Who Judges Your Mental Illness.

When you decide to come out of the mental illness closet, there’s all kinds of stigma you’re gonna have to deal with. It’s not easy to live openly with a busted brain and it’s especially not easy when people around you are judging the holy hell out of how you manage your symptoms. Many of us, sadly, are so pushed back into that closet by others that we end up judging ourselves to the point where we don’t give ourselves the help we need. 

Living with a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re dumb, selfish, or impulsive, it means you’re sick. Period.

No matter where I’m at in life, my symptoms come along with me. From overwhelming depression to a desire to people please, I fight daily against it and sometimes I lose that battle altogether. That’s why it’s so important for me to know the difference between fair, honest judgement and the kind of judgement that makes me wish I had a 90’s era Nickelodeon slime machine available for personal retribution. 

Some people, no matter how open and honest you are about what your life is like, are just plain going to treat you like you’re choosing your illness. Symptoms are often confused with personality and no matter how much you may try to convince people that you are not, for example, a negative person and that it’s your illness that makes you feel down, there’s still gonna be a small percentage of folks in your life who are going to treat ya like it’s a fuckin’ choice you’re making. 

Few things are less helpful than identifying someone’s symptoms and acting like it’s a decision they’re making to have them.

Now, when someone refuses to understand your experience, there’s all kinds of ways you can deal with them. Sure, you can go full on crazy and screech and scream at them or you can utterly cut them out of your life altogether. Neither one of those options will help you very much and unless your therapist (who you’re diligently seeing on a regular basis and listening to because you’re deeply committed to your own wellness) thinks it’s a good idea, you probably won’t benefit very much in the long run. 

That’s why it’s important to know exactly how to walk someone through your truth before you go getting pissed that they don’t understand you. How do you do this? Simple. With one word: LOVE. Now, I’m not talking about that new age crap where you have to hug it out with everyone who does ya dirty. I’m talking about using 4 simple steps to help someone understand what it’s like to understand you. 

Here they are: 

L - Learn to let me be myself. 

Often, people want us to hide our symptoms and put our mental illness in a little box that no one talks about. But the bottom line is that ya have it, it’s there whether you talk about it or not, and when you’re forced to hide a major part of yourself from the world you’re always carrying around a costume. Don’t do it! Instead, work with that person to help them understand that you not only have a mental illness, but you’re not going to be shamed into hiding it. The more honestly you live, the more they’ll respect your choice and start to see you for who you really are. 

O - Open yourself to new ideas. 

People place a lot of personal responsibility on anyone with a mental illness. While we may be able to do things that make us appear totally together, the truth is that there’s always some part of us that is a tad out of control. Personally I’m a careful person and I usually think through my choices long before I make them. But when my symptoms are out of whack, I’m impulsive and I don’t give much consideration to consequences. The bottom line is that the person I am is totally counter to the symptoms I have and the more I take the time to teach the people that love me what this is actually like, the better my relationships are. So help them find their way to new understandings and you’ll both be better off. 

V - Value my honesty about my experience. 

It’s not easy to straight up tell someone you have a mental illness and it’s certainly not easy to be real about it all the time. Many of us find ourselves wanting to present a better, more rosy picture to the outside world where we’re petting baby bunnies and frolicking through a field of posies. But the fact of the matter is that there’s a good deal of darkness that comes with any mental illness and when you’re brave enough to experience that openly with others, your honesty will be deeply respected by those around you. Always remind your detractors that you have a choice between hiding and living and that your decision to be real is the reason they oughta respect the hell out of you. 

E - Empathize with what I go through. 

Empathy is essential for anyone trying to understand what your life is like. While they’ll never be able to experience exactly what you go through, the more you communicate and explain the process behind your experience the better they’ll be able to understand. I try to explain everything from the way my brain works to the behavior that comes out and all the tough stuff in between that makes my mental health so complex. Do your research if you need to but the bottom line is that empathy comes from purposeful communication. The more you let others in the better they’ll be able to understand that hey, this is not, in fact, a craaaazy choice you’re making. And that you’re also a big ol’ badass because you’ve done the one thing that makes you a fricking champion: you’ve survived yourself! 

Alicia Gibson1 Comment