The 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge continues, with
Day 18: What do you wish people would understand in regards to mental illness?
For many years I was too scared to speak out of my mental illness. I hid it from family, from friends and from partners. I believed people would treat me differently; that they would label me ‘crazy’, ‘a nutcase’ or worse. I believed people would be scared of me; that they would only see the darkness lurking inside me; that they would not see the hidden strengths I knew were there.
When the full extent of my mental illness was revealed – without my consent – people were scared; they didn’t know how to act around me, they didn’t understand what was happening to me, and they did treat me differently; I was no longer ‘Andrew’, I was ‘the weak guy who’d had a breakdown’.
I was defined by my mental illness in the same way that some people are defined by their sexuality, skin colour or gender.
By the time I came to understand what was happening to me, it was too late to do anything. All I knew was that my illnesses – my breakdown – were not the sum total of who I was; I was so much more.
The one thing I wish people would understand in regards to mental illness is the same as one of my primary reasons for establishing this blog nearly six years ago: a mental illness does not define who a person is, they are so much more than the labels that have been applied to them.