Mental Illness: What I Wish Others Knew
"She said that?! Why didn't you punch her in the face?"
That was my initial reaction when my friend, Sam, told me a story about her "friend" in college. Okay, I did not really mean what I said. But I admit that I got pissed off.
Sam was a straight-A student. It was the last semester in college and everyone was so excited to finish school. But at the same time, they were stressed out with all the exams and school requirements. The stress took a toll on Sam's health and she came down with the flu.
A week passed and she was not getting any better. After a couple of weeks, she had a slew of symptoms that did not feel like flu anymore: brain fog, lack of focus, sweating profusely, not pooping, being extra clumsy and worst of all - she was not sleeping anymore.
To cut the long story short, Sam was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression. She went to school to notify her professors and group mates that she needed to take a long break because of her condition. When she was about to leave, Anne took her hand and stopped her. By the way, Anne was Sam's classmate since their first year in college. They always worked together on group projects and other school activities.
"Sam, I've always known you as a tough young lady. Gosh, I didn't know you are so weak. This would not have happened to you if you were really strong. You gotta think positive and fight it off, girl! It's that easy."
Yeah right. Now, do you understand why I wanted to punch Anne? Okay, let's cool off a bit. Maybe Anne did not understand what Sam was really going through. She probably did not know what it's like to have a mental illness.
That was like a decade ago. Sadly, even these days, I still hear or read shaming stories like this.
With the purpose of helping spread mental illness awareness, I asked 49 ladies this question:
If you or someone very close to you have/had a mental illness, WHAT'S THE ONE THING YOU WISH OTHER PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT IT?
Here's what they said:
"That it is as NORMAL as physical illness and does not mean that a person is weak!!!"
- Sam, Lift Like a Girl
"That there are spectrums and not everyone is a manic depressive when they have depression etc.."
- Martha, Simply Martha
"I wish they knew that it's not the person's fault. They cannot just think it away. It also doesn't go away when people tell them that it's not that bad. It's a sickness like a cold. You need medicine and proper care or you will stay sick."
- Marni, That Blue Flower
"That you don't necessarily choose to have it, and so it's not easy to 'switch it off'"
"That there are often really simple to solve physical reasons for a lot of mental issues including depression, brain fog, ADHD, anxiety, Alzheimer's. The connection between what we eat and how we feel is very real."
- Fran McElwaine, PRUV Protocol
"That my mental illness is not my choice, that it's not something I want"
- Ariel C, ArielC
"That it can happen to anyone, at any time and at any age."
- Ellen, E L Feelgood's Vintage
"That it’s normal and to treat us like everyone else."
"People should understand that mental illness is ILLNESS, like e.g. having the flu, or arthrosis. It needs to be taken care of and people most likely need support to recover. It is not something people just make up and it disappears again."
- Jessica Schmidt, Schmidtchen Eats
"The one thing I wish people knew about mental illness is that you don't have to try and 'fix' us. As someone who has suffered with anxiety and depression, I know that mental illness is not logical - and it most definitely doesn't make much sense. So when someone tries to fix it, it just makes us feel worse. Instead, we just need someone to be there to listen. To not make judgement. To understand that our feelings and emotions are valid and real - however silly they may sound. To hold our hand, and most importantly tell us that it's okay to not be okay."
- Beth Trueman, Beth Trueman
"It takes more effort for me to do simple things. Just know that I am trying."
- Jessie, Unapologetically Jessie
"It can be very easy to hide with a smile."
- Wrae, Wrae Meredith Blogs
"It’s not a choice"
"It is a daily struggle, and some days getting out of bed is something to be celebrated."
- Ariel, Ariel Theresa
"Those living with mental illness are more likely to harm themselves than other people."
- Britt, Meeting My Soul
"That having anxiety and panic disorder doesn't mean I'm a "panicky" person. I'm actually very logical and levelheaded."
"What I talk about vs. what I think about is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg."
- Jasmine, Chronically Ill Companions
"We aren't looking for medication; we're looking for peace of mind. We're looking for a way to live our lives without pain or fear. We aren't crazy nor are we losing our minds. We are normal human beings that need a little help from time to time."
- Lizzie Fourman, Lizzie Fourman Freelance Writer
"The smile on my face doesn’t mean I’m not struggling inside"
- Christine G, Cord of Three Strands
"That everyday life can be utterly overwhelming. Whether it's fighting to make yourself get up to face the day, keeping up with the rapid pace at which most people expect you to make simple decisions (where to eat, what color to select, who should drive to the store), or the overstimulation provided by public places (loud movies or music, lots of activity, bright lights), there are challenges at every turn and we are doing our best to cope with them the best we know how."
- Haylee Galloway, Maybe Sometime Mom
"It can come out of nowhere and have no apparent trigger."
- Valerie McCready, Bad-ass Magical B
"As a mental health professional, I wish that people who are suffering in silence because of a mental health issue would know that it's okay to let others in and share this pain rather than trying to go through it alone. I wish that people knew that as soon as others know about this pain they're enduring, the support towards healing can begin."
- Heather LeGuilloux
"It's no different than any other type of illness. There should be no shame or stigma associated with it."
"You can be a successful individual and still suffer from depression and insecurities. Too many people say that you can't be "sad" because other people have it worse than you. I wish they understood that your depression isn't defined by how "bad" your life is."
- Allison, CaCoCo
"That it is a disease I believe worse than any bodily illness. It affects your brain, which is at the root of everything you do each day and that cannot be replaced, like a kidney or liver or lung. It takes patience and a lot of love to take care of someone who doesn’t think and act the way they used to and a lot of courage to witness the changes that sometimes happen in a short period of time."
- Ioana, Weaningful
"I wish more people knew that most, if not all, mental illness is on a spectrum, so to speak. Each person with OCD has different triggers and degrees of struggle - some may be nearly non-functioning and others may only have minor annoyances. Having a mental illness does not automatically mean someone is awkward or unsafe, and most cases are not extreme ones. Since everyone is different, there is also no one, easy fix. One person may see a therapist for a short time and never struggle again, while someone else may need both medication and therapy indefinitely and still struggle each day (whether it is noticeable to others or not)."
"That it isn’t made up, it’s a genuine struggle to fight it."
- Liz, Love Coco & Nilla
"It's not something to be ashamed of and PTSD isn't just for soldiers. If someone tells you they have it please don't make a lot of loud, sudden noises because it is so distressing"
- Kayleigh Whyte
How much it truly affects every aspect of your life
- Samantha McDonald, Living With Real Joy
"I wish people understood mental illness is a lifelong condition that needs to be kept under control. Even though I might go through years of no symptoms, failure to take care of myself, or environmental triggers beyond my control can set me on a downward spiral. When people say, "I'm so glad you're better now," I want to punch myself in the face. Maintenance is effort. Just because I'm not showing the signs of mania or depression doesn't mean I'm not struggling every damn day to keep my mind in balance."
- Lauren Steinheimer, I Run to Trees
"We might seem like we are totally fine, but we are using coping mechanisms to deal with everything - and every once in a while it gets out of hand, and we show symptoms to other people. I work on my blog and got pets just so I could get out of my own head, but sometimes it's not enough."
- Taylor, Repressing The Crazy
"ADHD is real. Autism is real. Don't tell me that my son is "just a boy" and "running around" will make him better."
- Casey, Mommin With Monsters
"It is just as frustrating to the person with mental illness as it is to partners/family/friends."
- Savanna, Sparkly Bright Eyes
"Words do hurt. Always think twice of what to say to people, it can affect them more than you think"
- Sarah Drews, Feel Good Be Happy
"Even we don't ask for it, knowing your support is there for when we're ready makes all the difference."
- Sarah, Sutava
"I wish it didn't carry the stigma that it still does. I wish people understood that you can be a kind, loving, smart, successful individual who also lives with mental illness. Having a mental illness does not take away from all the other wonderful things that you are that make you, you!"
- Darci, Life Unplanned Blog
"The number one thing I wish people knew about anxiety is how it can cause a slew of frightening and intrusive physical symptoms."
- Sandi Schwartz, Happy Science Mom
"That just because I am high-functioning doesn't mean I am not suffering. I am not FAKING it."
- Jenny Barnes, Anywhere Admin
"I wish people knew that so many people are challenged by a mental illness, but because it's taboo in our culture, nobody is willing to admit it. I hope you know if you struggle, there are people all around who know you are battling."
- Rachel, Planning Mindfully
"That each mental illness can take many different forms. What one person may experience with a mental illness, may be completely different from what another person may experience. So respect other's in regards to that."
- Ashley, Ashley Hope In Christ
"It doesn't make you a monster, or dangerous! People with mental illnesses are still just people and are capable of love just like everyone. Mental illness doesn't = crazy and should be locked away. We are not imminently harmful to others or ourselves. We just have a bit different brain chemistry, and need help managing it."
"That it is not a choice"
- Angela, Striving For Balance
"That being "normal" is difficult."
- Amy Ho
"That living with mental Illness is a very hard thing to do.. No one understands you, society sees you as a freak or you are contagious."
"That I'm not always SAD when I'm depressed. I can laugh and have fun like a "normal" person even though I'm depressed."
"It's that person's reality so you can't rationalize the irrational. It will only leave you frustrated."
- Breshana Miller
"You don't have to be embarrassed about having a mental illness, just get the help you need to function as if you don't
- Sheri Davis
"Some questions make me feel broken and rejected for my illness. Please don't ask me "are you okay?" or "What's wrong?" when it looks like I'm having a bad day. Instead, try talking to me about a shared interest - a movie you saw or a book you've read or an event we've been to together. It will help me feel accepted and relaxed - and I may tell you what's wrong... or I may not - because I may not even know."
- Tiffany Montgomery, Hope Joy in Christ
Over to you...
Which one resonated with you the most?
What did you learn?
What do you wish others knew about mental illness?