Honest About Mental Illness
What happened when I let someone in
There's a certain strength that comes along with being honest about where you need to be met.
I've not had much trouble throughout my life being open about my chronic physical illnesses. Most of the time, I've not had a choice in being straightforward about what I need and what my limits are, as feeling like total trash is often very hard to hide.
What's posed quite a challenge for me throughout my life, and within my relationships, is being open and honest about my mental illnesses.
When you suffer from a mental illness, it's often hard/ confusing/ scary to really express what really happens in your mind. There's a shameful feeling that comes with being honest. There's a fear that keeps you quiet—a fear of judgement, misunderstanding, or ridicule.
My journey through coming to terms with my own mental illness has been long and hard. I've hurt loved ones, as well as myself, along the way—this is something I can finally admit.
There are countless booming voices across all social media platforms nowadays—advocates for mental health, celebrities sharing personal experiences with mental illness, and sites like The Mighty where users can find a sense of community with others who suffer from the same mental (or physical) ailments.
Despite the crusade to end the stigma and get real about the issues we face—I've not been able to really find my own voice when it comes to being honest with myself and those around me about my mental tornadoes.
When I first met my friend Ami, I had no idea that I'd be meeting the person who would help me touch down to my home base. I didn't expect that in her, I would find not only a true friend, but a safe space to exist just as I am, in my realest, rawest, and sometimes scariest, form.
Our connection was so incredibly natural. We met as coworkers and quickly became very close. We bonded over our love for Lana Del Rey, cats, and our shared (often twisted) sense of humor. The closer we became, the more I found myself divulging intimate details about my family life, childhood, and relationships—and the more I spoke, the more she helped me see patterns, inconsistencies, and behaviors that weren't necessarily normal.
Talking about my childhood with Ami helped me realize there was so much that I'd never really gotten over. Everything I'd say, she'd receive with sympathy and sorrow and let me know that what I experienced was hard and traumatic. She let me know that I didn't have to keep shoving all of the shit down, nor did I have to feel ashamed or guilty for having a hard time dealing with any of it.
As time went on, I shared more with her about my anxiety, depression, paranoia, irrational fears, and shameful impulses. Even now there are times where I blurt out my messy inner monologue to her—without fear of judgement—and she helps me come back down earth when my mind tries to pull me away.
After a particularly horrific panic attack, Ami spoke to me about finally going back to therapy, and helped me realize some behavioral patterns to discuss with a psychiatrist and finally get a diagnosis—letting me know that I didn't have to feel shitty about needing help, and assuring me that this was a right thing to do. She recognized that it takes guts. She admitted she was proud.
I have been on quite a ride with my mental health struggles, which I will share more of as time goes on, but I can say I wouldn't be where I am now —cognitive and aware of my mental health status—if it weren't for Ami.
If I hadn't been so honest with her, I wouldn't be getting the help I'm getting now, and I cannot imagine the damage I would've done in my personal life.
Having a true, dedicated friend who meets me where I am with such strength, wisdom, and love, has made such a difference in my life. Her ability to hold space for me to really be open about my mental health struggles has saved me from many a break down/ downward spiral/ implosion.
I truly hope everyone finds someone they can trust and turn to like I have. Mental illness is not something we have to tackle alone. It's not something anyone should try and tackle alone. A support system is everything.
Someone you can be honest with is life-changing.
If you (or someone you know) are suffering from mental illness (or even suspects that you could be) here's a few resources for you to turn to:
- This is a place I mentioned earlier in this post where you can find community in others who suffer. You can share you own personal experiences and ask questions that other members can answer.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline"provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
- And if you text HOME to 741741 you will be able to speak to someone at the Crisis Text Line (a resource I've personally used plenty of times before). "Every texter is connected with a Crisis Counselor, a real-life human being trained to bring texters from a hot moment to a cool calm through active listening and collaborative problem solving."
This post originally appeared on my blog.