A Stranger’s Kindness

A just read this article, “An Open Letter to a Person With Mental Illness” by Rachel Griffin on The Huffington Post.

I saw the link on Twitter and thought, “Hmm… This could be interesting.” I wasn’t expecting to be touched emotionally by the content. I wasn’t expecting to feel less alone and more understood. But that’s what happened.

Here are some excerpts from the article and my reaction to them:

You are not damaged. You are whole, regardless of having a mental illness. I like you the way you are. I wouldn’t change you.

Well, you may not want to change me but, given the choice, I would change me. I would make me not miserable, not depressed, not struggling to keep a job. You don’t know me so you can’t say that.

You are not “crazy.” You are not violent. You are not the lame stereotypes.

Okay, maybe this person has a point. I’m so sick of the news always blaming violent crimes on people with mental illnesses. It’s ridiculous!

I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with the stigma of mental illness. I’m so sorry that after you’ve uttered the words, “mental illness” something in the person who’s listenings eyes or demeanor has changed. That’s their problem, not yours.

I know what the person’s going for here, but I don’t think I’ve really had to deal with that stigma. Everyone around me has been really supportive. Although, I did freak out when told I needed a doctor’s note for missing work and my work didn’t know about my mental illness and I was worried about their reaction when they saw a note from a psychiatrist’s office…

People tell you that they were depressed once and cured themselves with yoga and green juices. Their cousin Jenny cured her anxiety by eliminating gluten, but she has amazing willpower. They say, “If you just thought more positively..”

Oh. My. God. This. This. I’ve had so many people, even well-meaning family members, that I just need to change my way of thinking, that it will “help so much you won’t even believe it.” One of my sisters told me that she wished she could remember what helped her out of her depression in high school because she’s sure it would help me. Another sister told me that she didn’t think I’d ever be really happy until I found the right guy, because that’s what helped her and we’re so much alike. The same sister told me that if I could get a job she’s sure I would feel so much better. Her depression is virtually gone since she got one! My aunt and grandma told me they heard that eliminating gluten can help with depression. A great-aunt told me that if I’m not “better” after two years of seeing my current therapist that maybe I need a new one because my current one clearly isn’t doing her job well.

Holy crap. This passage literally just hit me over the head.

Getting and staying with treatment is brave. The ignorant people born with normal brain chemistry may say, “The big pharmaceutical companies are evil and putting everyone on mind numbing drugs!” Well, guess what? They saved your life. You don’t feel numb.

I’ve had several people in my family ask, “Have you thought about trying no medication?” My mom has told me that my self-harm and suicidal thoughts never started until after I was on medication so maybe they caused them. Agh. No. Without medication, I might have been dead by now.

The world needs you and your story. You have been to hell and back and you are here to say, “It gets better.” When a person is struggling, many people look away. They change the subject or suddenly need a drink refill. You reach your hand out into the darkness to find theirs. You share your lantern. You’re not afraid of darkness, because you know it… You had coffee with darkness yesterday. He brought donuts. He doesn’t scare you like before. You know how to work with him.

That’s what this blog is all about. To use my voice and share my story. To help any person that might see my fight and be inspired to keep moving forward. This passage actually gives me a great idea for a poem…

“You had coffee with darkness yesterday. He brought donuts.” This definitely made me LOL.

Please know that your illness has another side to it; the awesome side.

I think I know where she’s going with this…

You are creative, artistic, and a dreamer. That same imagination that exhausts you with sad images and fearful scenarios can also dream up amazing art, music, business ventures etc. You’ve held so much pain that is now energy that you can use… What are you going to do with it? Create or destruct? Choose create.

Yup. I was right. And she is right. My poetry and art didn’t really start until my struggle with depression did. And I love them. I love creating and emoting and conveying the darkness, the struggle that so many people go through. I choose create.

Just because you are different, doesn’t mean you are broken. Different people change the world, because they can see beyond what is.

Yes.

Please stop picturing bad things happening. You’re not going to suddenly go crazy. Your friend doesn’t hate you because she hasn’t texted back. When you picture something going wrong, remember it could also go right. […] You could meet a wonderful partner. The next medicine could work. You could live a full, happy life. 

This is so hard for me. I catastrophize all. the. time. But I feel inspired. This author has inspired me to remember all the positive possibilities. The next medicine could work. The next medicine could work. I have to believe that.

Remember Lincoln, Plath, Mozart? You’re in good company.

🙂

Please know you are worthy of love. Would you tell a friend with an illness that they weren’t worthy of a wonderful relationship? Would you date someone amazing who has an illness? You would and the right person will with you. You can have a mental illness and have a healthy, successful relationship. The right person will fall *madly* for you. Someone worthy (yes, they need to be worthy of you) will be crazy for you- Cue Crazy In Love by Beyoncé. See, now they are the crazy one!

I’m 24 and have never been in a relationship. Ever. I always tell myself I don’t know if I’ll ever try, because it’s not fair of me to put someone through dealing with my illness. But this flips it around. I would be angry if someone told me they weren’t good enough for me. That should be my choice. And it should be their choice. Maybe there is someone out there for me. 🙂

Please know you are not alone. I have mental illness, too. I am you.

Love, Rachel

I feel less alone. Uplifted. Thank you.

 

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