What would you like people to know about mental illness?

Question: If there was one thing you could tell people about your experience with mental illness, either in a family member, friend, or yourself, what would it be?

I have been thinking about this question a lot, especially since for so many years I kept silent for fear of being stigmatized and judged.  My experience with mental illness is far-reaching, spanning three generations of my family, and also from connecting with many people who have had mental illness over the years.

Based on my experiences, I would like to  answer the question from three different perspectives:

1) As the daughter of a mom who had paranoid schizophrenia, except for a few close friends, I quickly learned it was better not to share this information with people because of their response. The most frequent response was: “Are you going to get it?”

When I told people my mom passed away from cancer, nobody ever asked me that question.

So the first thing I would like to tell people is this: When I talk about my mom’s mental illness, please respond with the same compassion and respect that you would when I talk about her having cancer.

2) I had an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression. I have many close friends who know this about me, and whenever I have told people I find that many of them open up about their own personal experiences. Still, there are those who are not quite so sensitive.

So I would like to make a request. Stop perpetuating the problem by saying, “I wish I had an eating disorder, I could stand to lose some weight.” Stop talking about dieting and what people look like all the time, and start focusing on what is inside.

3) It was heartbreaking when my daughter developed an eating disorder and had a couple of episodes of major depression that landed her in the hospital. On one of those occasions I took a leave from work to be with her for 7 weeks. My good friends at work knew about it and were extremely supportive and caring, and that meant the world to me. However, in an effort to protect my daughter’s privacy, many other people didn’t know what was going on. In retrospect, I wish I had been more open with everyone. It was hard coming back as if nothing had happened. Especially knowing the kind of support people had given to other co-workers when their children had been hospitalized or come down with an illness that wasn’t mental in nature. It was sad that I felt the need to keep her illness a secret, especially when it became life-threatening.

So in the future, I want people to know that when my child has a mental illness, we need the support, cards, flowers, and casseroles the same way that someone whose child has any other illness does.

I do not blame anyone for their innocent responses, as they are rooted in a lack of understanding. And why would people respond in any other way if I, myself, am not comfortable being honest about what is going on. The only way these misconceptions can change is for any and all of us who have had experience with a mental illness to speak up about it, without any shame.

So now it is your turn – what would you like to tell people?

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28 thoughts on “What would you like people to know about mental illness?

  1. I would like for people to know that this is just like anything else it can be arrested but that there is treatment and the quicker it us caught the better the chances are that you will survive just like all the rest,and to stop thinking and talking like this is more than just an illness ,
    or that it is an illness of epidemic portion for which there is no help
    As always Sheldon

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would want to tell them somehow that’d convince them, that just because everyone has a mind, it doesn’t mean every e can understand every mental illness and tell the mentally ill what to do about it. It drives me fucking batshit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: I Really can turn it around | life as seen by me

  4. What a post!
    I would like to tell people that I am not greedy but I am addicted. I have to have my drug every day to survive so I cant just quit it. My drug dealer lives in every town, on any road there is a supermarket. Eating disorders are mental illnesses, not lifestyle choices, poor decision making or vanity.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. During my multi-year quest for the PhD, I was subject to episodes of BLACK, perhaps pre-suicidal, levels of clinical depression. I never found an anti-depressant that would touch it. Finally I discovered that the only thing that would have a decisive effect on my depression was ceasing all religious observance. This was hard, as I had been raised an observant, practicing Christian. The take-away for me was to do ANYthing, even including throwing religious faith overboard, rather than be sucked down the black hole of depression, it may be all the way to the ultimate singularity of suicide. My life is more important, keeping my wife from becoming a widow is more important, than any ideology.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had the same type of experience with religion, as I would tried so hard to live up to unrealistic standards. I found that for me I needed to back away as well for my own mental health. Thank you for stopping by and giving me your thoughts.

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      • These days, the closest I come to that kind of “black-hole” depression is thinking that I’m 66 years old and that, of those 66 years, I wasted about 55 of them trying to kiss up to God & Jesus, so all that time is just so many “years the locusts have eaten”. I try not to think about that too much!

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  6. I would like people to know that having a mental health issue doesn’t make me mentally defective, and sometimes, I’m just angry or sad because I’m angry or sad, not because I have a mental health issue. Some days I ‘suffer from’ and some days I ‘live with’ and some days, I even ‘triumph over’.

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    • I know what you mean. I can put that baggage on myself as well, whenever I am sad or angry. Rather than allowing myself to feel, I tell myself I am mentally defective. Fortunately I have learned how important it is to feel those feelings without censorship and the days when I self-censor have decreased a lot. I needed your reminder today. Thanks buddy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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