One thing every single person who has experienced mental health issues can agree on is the loneliness. From depression and anxiety to the more stigmatized disorders on the psychotic spectrum, our symptoms cut us off from others, especially neurotypicals. Neurotypicals have simply never experienced life through our eyes, so they usually have a hard time understanding what we’re going through. However, individuals who do have mental health issues still might not understand because everyone is different and how their symptoms manifest is unique to each person.
Mental Health Issues Are Isolating
I have friends with anxiety and depression. I feel like I should feel comfortable discussing my mood disorder with them, but I just don’t. I’ve tried and each time, the conversation falls flat, my cheeks redden. I feel like a freak, and they obviously don’t understand how I feel. How could they? How can I expect them to? Having bipolar disorder with symptoms of schizophrenia is vastly different from the less stigmatized conditions like anxiety. Both are debilitating and life-altering in their own ways but trying to explain my hallucinations to people who have no experience with that… it never really goes well. They pull their limbs close to their body and try not to cringe. So, I’ve stopped trying.
It’s okay to have friends that I don’t talk about everything with. It’s okay that they don’t understand. Most people don’t, but my friends are at least, respectful. Most people aren’t. Even relatives can be vastly ignorant. People are rude. Bosses don’t care. Teachers don’t want to hear it.
We Obviously Just Want Attention, Right?
We’re Just Making Excuses, Right?
No. We’re in pain, and we’re trying to navigate life with that pain. We’re trying to communicate how we’re feeling to a society that believes our conditions are self-inflicted. Listen, I’ve been open about my mental illness for years, and it never gets easier. I stopped putting myself out to change the minds of people who will never care. I’m still an advocate, yes, but on my own terms. I talk openly about my condition only when I feel safe and respected. Only if I’m up to it.
You usually can’t change the opinions of people who are deeply ignorant and close-minded. I write as a part of my advocacy. If someone happened across my blog, I’d say they’re probably more open-minded. I’m not good at communicating in person, so my weapon of choice is my pen. That’s why I started this blog in 2016. That’s when I found a community of people online who DO understand me.
No One Understands My Mental Illness… Or Do They?
Tumblr was the first place I found other people who understood my mental health issues. Reddit came second. Now, I can go to pretty much any social media and find a community of people who understand how I’m feeling. I enjoy being apart of the conversation surrounding mental illness. I love taking polls on the HealthStorylines app, using my experiences to hopefully better the world. After logging into the app, there’s a series of poll questions that you can answer. I like answering them to share my thoughts about my condition, especially my personal journey with self-care.
One of the statements in the poll said, “I experience great accomplishment in the ordinary and everyday things I do as I cope with my condition”
“How meaningful is the following statement to you?” the poll asked.
Very meaningful, I thought. Although schizoaffective disorder can be hard and even debilitating at times, it enriches my life in other ways. I hone in on concrete details that enrich my writing with vibrant sights and sounds. That’s what being in a mental illness community is all about. Being around people who understand us reminds us that we aren’t alone and that we have our own unique weaknesses AND strengths.
Whatever condition you live with, there’s most likely a community out there of people who understand you. You’re not alone, even though it may feel like that most of the time. I promise.
About The Author:
August Blair is the founder of Survival is a Talent. She is a freelance writer and blogger. She is passionate about mental health, social issues, and the environment. She studies at The University of North Georgia.