Go easy on yourself and hopefully when life goes back to normal for many of you, you will find a new understanding, compassion, and appreciation for every level of human functioning.
And that’s what these days are all about now—trying new things. Routines are essential to people living with a mental illness, as many of them will tell you, and unfortunately, with the global lockdown our routines are disrupted. So we need to establish new routines.
Although I’m grateful that there is more openness and dialogue around making peace with food and our bodies in the media, often what we see is over simplified, prettied up and packaged (often to sell products or services) in a way that I believe is a bit misleading and does a disservice to people embarking on this journey.
I’ve been asked outright what it’s like to hallucinate, what the voices say to me, and if I’ve ever become completely unhinged. I try to answer those questions as honestly as I can, shying away from over-exaggeration, thereby inadvertently feeding into the misinformation delivered through newscasts and tabloid journalism. It’s not always easy.
I worry about things like spontaneous combustion. I also worry that the laws of gravity might be randomly suspended and I’ll suddenly find myself hurtling through space. These are real fears, fears that strangle my thoughts in the middle of the day when I’m doing something as mundane as sorting the recycle.
I yearn for equality and yet, in private moments, I still repeat to myself, “I am mentally ill. I will always be mentally ill,” and I deride myself for being so. I struggle to like myself, worried that others won’t. Because of my genetic makeup. Because of my thought processes and resultant impenetrable responses. Because mentally ill people are an easy target for bullies.
I consider the histories of the mentally ill. So often they are artists, with a sensitivity to see beauty and connectedness in the world that the rest of us don’t recognize. Perhaps that heightened sensitivity makes them more susceptible to these illnesses. Their exquisite brains are easy targets, like little bunnies, so vulnerable.
If you care for a person living with a mental illness, how can you help? Begin by listening without judgement, as you would to anyone else. Refrain from attempting to correct the convergence of ideas that their neural pathways create. Just listen. Is there an urgency to the message? You can sense that. Are they showing an emotion you can recognize, despite the nature of the words, the cadence of their speech? Listen actively, without reason. Bring your shared history with you. Bring love.
I am thankful I am alive. I want to give back. I have learned to love me. So I have learned to love the people around me. Never ever give up. Every hard step taught me something. So it WILL do the same for you. I am grateful for my life. I have added value to the lives of people around me. SO WILL YOU.