It might piss a few people off, but I’m writing it anyway:
My brain is fucked up. Sometimes, my behavior is completely beyond my conscious control and what I do and say at those times can be hurtful to people I love. I am not “desperate for attention,” “dictating how people respond to me,” or being mean because I get off on it. I’m very vocal and open about my mental health for a reason. Anyone that is, or was, close to me is aware of the shit I deal with because of mental illness.
I’m not saying I can’t and shouldn’t be held accountable for my words and actions. I’m saying that before anyone accuses me of something, they should consider that perhaps I’m having a bad time dealing with my illness/disorder and not make an assumption that I’m simply being bitchy.
Example: If I don’t get a response from someone, particularly if we’re not on good terms at that moment, I lose it. I self-harm in several ways, I have all of the oh-so-lovely physical symptoms of a panic attack, I will assume that the person that hasn’t responded to me hates me, and I will desperately seek reassurance that I’m not being abandoned.
I’ve only very recently received that diagnosis but prior to that, I knew I had major depressive disorder (info here), generalized anxiety disorder (info here), and agoraphobia with panic disorder (some info here). I knew my reaction to someone not responding to me was not normal and I figured it was mostly related to past experience. I explained this to my close friends. I asked them to please, if at all possible, just send a very short response so I didn’t freak the fuck out. Just something. Anything.
I don’t want to control how people live their lives. I just want them to understand that there is an actual illness that drives my behavior at times and any help they can give is appreciated. Maybe I should have phrased it like that from the get-go. Too late now.
I would not invite a veteran with PTSD over to my house on the 4th of July and set off mortars while they sat close by. Maybe I should have used that analogy. Again, too late.
Please understand that if you know someone that has a mental illness, sometimes they might not have total control of their behavior anymore than a cancer patient has control of symptoms from their illness. If they have confided in you and told you that you can help by doing X, Y, Z, keep that information in mind.
I fucking tried to kill myself because I knew I had severely fucked up and hurt people and had not received a response from people I trusted when I attempted to apologize and had asked for one bit of information in response: how much money I owed them. I wasn’t trying to fix the relationship. I knew I’d blown it there. I just wanted to know how much money I owed them so I could pay them back and move the fuck on. I eventually did get a response from one of them and it was pretty vicious. I deserved most of it. Funnily enough, I still have no idea how much I owe them. I’m not likely to find out either seeing as how I decided that focusing on fixing what I can about myself and moving on was more important than continuing contact with them and, with that in mind, blocked them on Facebook and via email. If you keep picking at a wound, it won’t heal. BUT I AM NOT TRYING TO CONTROL ANYONE OR DICTATE HOW ANYONE LIVES THEIR LIFE.
Even just writing this makes me feel like a piece of shit for being upset by some of the things in that response because I feel like I have no right to expect kindness or understanding from people I’ve hurt. But I had trusted these people to understand something and that hurt. I’m beating myself up pretty effectively on my own. I doubt I’ll ever stop feeling guilty and horrible over this. That doesn’t mean anyone has the right to kick me while I’m down.
I don’t know the circumstances around Kathleen Shoener’s death but whatever those circumstances were, her illness was the cause of her death. It could have been my family writing my obituary not all that long ago. This woman’s father could have not said a word about her illness but instead he chose to honor his daughter’s memory by educating people about how her illness killed her.
Please, PLEASE, if you know someone dealing with mental illness, don’t refer to them as your “_____ friend.” Their illness isn’t them. It is part of them and it certainly plays a part in their daily life but it is not their sole, defining characteristic. If they confide in you and trust you to help them with any aspect of their illness, don’t give them any reason to regret having done so. If people around you are making jokes about someone with a mental illness, shut that down. It’s a joke to them, but to the person with the mental illness it could very well have some devastating consequences. If you don’t think you want to, or can, handle a close relationship with someone that has a mental illness, be up front about that.
Yeah, this topic gets me heated, particularly now. But our society needs to change its attitude towards mental illness and the only way that happens is if we talk about it, loudly and often. I hate throwing around overused phrases like, “raising awareness,” but that’s what needs to happen. And people need to fucking get used to hearing about it because it is more prevalent than they might think.