For those of us with untreatable mental health issues one of the biggest problems we face is our friends and family meaning well and wanting to help but not really understanding. I want to give you some insight from my first hand experience with being mentally ill and chronically misunderstood.
First, just because we put makeup on and smile and push through the day does not mean that we are doing great…or even anywhere close to ok. Because of the stigma against the mentally ill population we have learned to hide behind a mask of normalcy, to show you what you want to see and hide how we really feel. We hate being told things like “if you would do some breathing exercises you would be fine” when we are panicking and can’t calm down or “it’s all in your head, you just need to get control of yourself” when depression and suicidal thoughts overwhelm us.
If we actually open up to you, it means we love you and really trust you. It means we are putting faith in you that you won’t judge us or tell us all the things that will so obviously just fix us. For many of us we have been through round after round of therapy, medication after medication and for quite a few of us…it hasn’t fixed us. All the coping skills and mindfulness exercises, all the medical trials and suggestions of well meaning “support groups”..sometimes it just doesn’t fix it.
We need you to understand that when we come to you and need to talk, that doesn’t mean we need you to fix us..just to listen and understand. We fight every day of our lives to get to a new normal. Sometimes it is nice to just feel like people care enough to try to understand what we have been through and are still going through.
Some mental illnesses are very treatable and others are nearly impossible to treat. I personally have one of those nearly untreatable illnesses, a personality disorder. Imagine doctor after doctor pumping medications into you because they gave you the wrong diagnosis..because they thought there were messed up chemicals in your brain that are fixable with medication. Yet after each medication trial you seemed to just get worse.
You ended up in the psychiatric hospital over and over and over for attempting suicide, but you couldn’t remember any of it because you had dissociated….your body was on autopilot and you weren’t in control. Then finally years later you find out that no, it’s not a disorder of the chemicals in your brain…it’s a disorder of your actual personality. That you are intrinsically flawed from some unknown childhood trauma and the only thing that can possibly help is years of intensive therapy.
How would you feel? Would you feel hopeless maybe? Or exhausted from the constant internal battle? Would you want to cry out for someone to help you because you are so lost you don’t know which way to turn?
This is the dark side of mental illness, the untreatable, the ones that medication has failed. All we ask of you is to try to understand that our outbursts of emotions are not intentional, they aren’t something we control. When we cancel our social commitment and say we just can’t handle people, just understand that it’s not that we don’t want to be around you…we feel like you don’t deserve to have to put up with us.
We want to get better. There is therapy available. It’s just not covered by insurance and is so expensive that we just can’t afford it. Can’t afford to get well….
Fight for us, for our right to treatment. For our right to not feel like abominations. Recognize those of us with personality disorders and schizophrenia and dissociative disorders and complex PTSD. Open your arms and tell us that it’s ok, that you won’t judge us and that you won’t run away from our friendship.
We want to feel as normal as possible, and to do that…we need your help.
For those of you that are like me who actually have these mental illnesses, here are some options for therapy:
Step Based Trauma Centered Therapy
Dialectal Behavioural Therapy
Talkspace Online Therapy(it’s something to get you low cost help when you can’t afford more extensive therapy)
Mindfulness Exercise Lead Journaling
Group Therapy(feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will work on setting up online group therapy through Facebook messenger using the peer lead technique) or look up NAMI for local support groups