Five Things Nobody Tells You About Mental Illness
I have heard so many misconceptions, so I figure I would give you an insider view on life with a mental illness. I have borderline personality disorder, so I have heard just about everything in the book.
- Going to the psychiatric hospital: Most would assume that this would be a nightmare with padded walls, frightened screams in the hallway, people licking windows, arm and leg restraints, etc, but this is the furthest from the truth. Last week upon my arrival to my partial hospitalization, I sat in a meeting room, a patient lounge filled with coloring books, books, water, apple cider, a chalk board, and friendly faces chattering amongst themselves. A school for mental health is a friendlier, more welcome term than “mental hospital”.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover: Don’t assume someone is healthy based on their outward appearance and/or demeanor. It often hides behind a mask of smiles, laughter, etc, so others don’t realize the person is going through hell each day. I had this experience, as I built the image of a happy bubbly young woman who seemed to have it all together. Inside, I was unraveling until I had a nervous breakdown that lead to an almost-suicide attempt. Nobody even knew.
- We want to talk about it, so please don’t avoid the subject in order to avoid triggering someone. Even though I built an image of someone who had it all together, I wish someone sat down with me, and didn’t accept me telling them I was fine. I cried and poured out my heart when someone knew better and told me they felt that something was troubling me. Talking really helps us process our emotions and thoughts and get out what is weighing on our hearts.
- We are dying for love and affection! Even if we are at our worst, angry and agitated, we crave love. In fact, when we lash out (or in), that is when we need love the most. Please be patient, and offer love and affection. Please love on us, and reassure us that you will love us no matter what. We cannot help sometimes when our mental illnesses act up, so we are afraid of you leaving. Please take a break and take care of yourself, but do not leave, no matter what!
- We are aware when we are being irrational. I know I’m not speaking for everyone with a mental illness, as we are all unique. When we are being irrational, please listen, and wait for the storm to pass. Once we are done talking, crying, yelling, mumbling, etc, and we are calmed down, that is when you should remind us of the coping skills we are taught in counseling. Please also refer to 3 and 4 above. We are craving love and affection, and yes, we want to talk about it.