This subject falls so close to home. Starting with me. Hi, my name is Elizabeth and I have a mental illness. Looking right at me you would think that I have my shit together. Because frankly at the age of 28 we should all have our shit together, right? Or should we still be in limbo as to what we are going to do with our lives. I mean so many people around me have careers. They have graduated college, they are married with children. In that order. They are living on top of the world and their lives are amazing on every level.
Well here I sit with no college degree, 3 children and unmarried. In that order. My live is worthless. I’m worthless. But buck up sister, put on a smile and show the world how great life really is.
That my loves is the anxious and depressed Elizabeth that surfaces from time to time. No matter how hard I try to control it, I have panic attacks and sometimes they are so bad that I feel like I’m dying. I mean what I think dying would feel like. Some days I struggle to get out of bed and continue my mommy duties. Others I jump right out of bed and embrace the day. I’m on point and no one can dull my sparkle.
Here’s the thing though. Even though I am the one with mental illness, I live with 4 other people that are affected by it. No, none of them have mental illness but all of them live with me which when I am bad is a huge task in itself. Living with people that have mental illness can be super challenging. Sometimes to the point where people leave relationship from lack of understanding. Other times it’s because the person without the mental illness realizes that the person they love have to much baggage. So they run as fast and as far as they possibly can.
Can you blame them? Waking up everyday next to a person that has mood swings or anxiety so bad you don’t know if your going to get Dr.Jeckle or Mr.Hyde. Most times when I’m like that I can’t handle myself, I can’t imagine being someone on the outside not knowing what to do or say to make things better. I’m sure they feel a form of helplessness that turns into depression over time. So instead of feeling that way they leave.
So by now your probably thinking this post is how to help people with mental illness cope. Well you would be wrong my dear. This post is to help people with mental illness, help others in their life without mental illness cope with you. Yep, because even though you have the issue, let be real. You push your issue on to them without knowing or realizing it. I am by no means saying this is your fault or your a bad person. But what everyone need to realize is that people loving other people with mental illness need to know what to do or not to do when your in crisis. If not there isn’t a chance in hell the relationship no matter what kind will survive. Won’t happen, no chance.
The first step is to let that person know, whoever her or she maybe that you have a mental illness. Scary I know. Letting people into your circle not knowing how they will react or better yet how you will react to their reaction. I have done this in all the wrong ways. I have cried and screamed that I am anxious and depressed. Followed up with ” YOU NEVER UNDERSTAND ME!” Well duh genius. You never explained to them what to do to help you. My suggestion is to sit the person down, when you are not depressed or anxious and explain to them what that looks like in you. Let them know how you feel when your like this and what you do.
Personally, I cry. Over every. little. thing. I mean I could spill my glass of milk and I’m grabbing a life preserver to survive the flood of tears. Seriously guys, it’s that intense. So many people react different ways. From getting visibly upset to becoming an introvert and not wanting to talk to anyone at all. Voice all of it. Because if you are usually a happy go lucky person and all of a sudden your acting like someone stole your cookie, people need to know it’s not them its you. I mean unless it is them. If that’s the case…..TELL THEM! You are saving no one if you don’t voice your feelings. Weather it be in the moment or later after the moment has gone. Either way do it.
So now they know you have a mental illness and what you look like when your having an off day. The next step is to tell them how to help you or what not to do when you are having a tough time. Some people panic and want to cuddle you to calm you down. With me that is exactly what I need. I need the reassurance that everything will be fine and hugs and snuggles does that. But there are other people that do not under any circumstances what to be touched. They need to be left alone to work through it themselves. Both ways are perfectly fine coping skills.
I am a loving person and I like to show that. Many people are. So if you need time to yourself without touching I personally need to know that or I automatically think I did something wrong. I have known people who thought their significant other was cheating because all of a sudden they don’t want them to touch them. Which causes a whole set of new issues. I mean in some cases that was the problem but usually its not.
Lastly, understand that you have a mental illness. This is not your fault but it is something you need to deal with. That means seeking help if needed, take medication if you chose. Don’t let others let you feel less than because you struggle from time to time. You are not crazy. You are coping with shit other would drown under if the seats were reversed. But you are stronger than the mental illness, you can rise above and prove you are amazing everyday of the week. Never forget how important you truly are. Let no one dull that sparkle. And along the way teach others what they may not know about mental illness to make it less taboo. Don’t let it define you, for you are far better then a textbook diagnosis.