Words by Anonymous
What mental illness(es) are you currently living with?
Depression. A lot of it is rooted in a very contentious custody battle that my parents fought for six years. I was put in the middle. Although my father was wonderful in a lot of ways, he often bad-mouthed my mother in front of me, and devoted a substantial portion of his time to telling me what a bad parent and person she was. He died when I was 16 and I went to live with my mother.
By this point, I viewed my mother as an untrustworthy, negative influence — at best — and I hated myself. I was – and still am – a lot like her. After all, she’s one half of who I am.
As a result, I held hostility towards my mom for a long time, which affected our relationship. Nearly 15 years later, I’m still putting the pieces of myself back together.
What’s one thing you want others to know about your mental illness?
I want people to know I’m in a lot of pain. I keep imagining someone saying to me, “well, you can just get over this” or thinking this is like, a personality construct to feed something depraved within myself or get attention. But only a person who hasn’t been clinically depressed would say that. I’ve often found the people who are so righteous and quick to judge are those who have no experience with this illness whatsoever.
What’s one thing you’re seeking to unlearn about the mental illness(es) you live with?
I’m trying to figure out how to not let this incapacitate me. It’s easier said than done.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone who loves a person living with a mental illness, and wants to support them?:
If they have activities they like to do, support that (i.e. guitar, painting, gardening, etc.). Activities and hobbies can help keep a person in the moment, solely on the task at hand, and provide a respite from the pervasiveness of depression and anxiety.
I strongly believe that most people living with a mental illness want more than anything to feel normal. Judgments will serve as a reminder that they don’t feel normal. This doesn’t end well.
The person providing support needs to be an active participant in their own treatment. Mental illness has already compromised their agency. So, their job is to help the person nurture it, and there is no setting more powerful in which to do it than when discussing treatment.
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ABOUT THE SERIES
There’s someone that needs to hear that mental illness doesn’t define us. There’s a lot of noise out there about who we are and what we’re capable of. But, we get to speak for ourselves. That’s why this series exists. It’s a small but meaningful addition to Mental Health Awareness Month. Storytelling can break chains and make us feel less alone. Our truths can help others see the other side of a thing, of a person. Our stories can help someone feel a little more empowered, and a little more hopeful. Each series storyteller was brave enough to share a piece of their truth.
To view more stories from the series, visit the series homepage.