- I’m not violent. Most of us aren’t. The mentally ill are actually more likely to be a victim of violence than the other way around. Some people are scared of us because of this wrong assumption, but if you treat us with respect, we will treat you with respect, as well, just like most other human beings.
- I see things sometimes, but I know not to interact with my hallucinations, especially in public. I don’t want to scare anybody. Most of the time, I know I’m the only one who can see my hallucinations. I err on the side of caution. I’m not going to communicate or interact in any way with someone or something that I know other people can’t see. If anything, I would ask someone very close to me if they are seeing or hearing what I am.
- I have delusions, which means I have false fixed beliefs. Sometimes I think my boyfriend is made of plastic, so I have to touch his face to convince myself he’s real. I also have conflicting beliefs about what’s real and what’s not, but I can tell what’s a hallucination and what’s not, for the most part. It’s a different feeling. A hallucination breathing on my neck feels different than when a real person breathes on my neck. I do get paranoid, though. So if I give you a look, or seem scared, just reassure me, or ignore it, if you don’t know what to do. Either way, don’t escalate it. Don’t get defensive and give my mind a reason to be paranoid. My demeanor may have set you off, but then your behavior will only feed my paranoia.
- I have a thought disorder, so it’s hard for me to understand things sometimes. Give me a second to catch up. If you’re talking really fast or about complicated things and I look lost or I’m only replying minimally, saying “Yeah… Yeah, I Know,” just give me a break. This happens to normal people sometimes, anyway. Some people just don’t listen well, but that’s not me. I’ve been called a bad listener plenty of times because I couldn’t follow a conversation or a lesson in class. Just give me a second to catch up. Ask if you think I’m having trouble. But don’t accuse me of not listening. I’m trying the best I can.
- Sometimes, I have mild poverty of speech. That means I can’t find the right words for things. Please don’t look at me weird if I call the coffee maker a “red box.” It’s not a big deal. Give me a minute to find the words. Be patient with me. Because I’m desperately trying to find the words for “coffee maker,” and sometimes I even start crying because I just can’t find the right words, so I have to point because I can’t remember how to put words together. And it may not seem like a big deal to you, but when it feels like my brain is short-circuiting, I feel stupid and get frustrated, so try to be patient and helpful. Even just offering the right words can be so helpful. Simply saying, “coffee maker” is like a lifeline back to rational thoughts sometimes.
- Just because I have a chronic illness doesn’t mean I’m mentally incompetent. I just have extra trouble sometimes when I’m especially stressed. I can work. I can drive. I’m a person like everyone else. I’m just a little more unique. You could even say, I’m extra special in some ways. Give those of us with mental illnesses a chance. We see the word differently. We can offer a new way of looking at things. You might even learn something from us.
- There is no reason for any of us to be ashamed. I know I never will be.
This article appeared on The Mighty.
August B Pfizenmayer is the founder of Survival is a Talent. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and student. She studies creative writing, specializing in poetry and creative nonfiction. She loves sweets and warm weather. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.