People who don’t have a mental illness may not know what it feels like to have depression or anxiety, but that doesn’t mean they can’t try to understand it.
Understanding and empathy helps break down stigma, but more importantly, can help us to better support loved ones and colleagues when they are struggling.
Here on Reddit, users with a mental illness were asked to reveal what they wished non-ill people knew.
Getting angry at me doesn’t help
“If you hate me because you think I’m not trying hard enough, I can assure you that I hate me more.
“The reason getting angry at people with mental illness never works to motivate them is because you’re never saying anything they haven’t already said to themselves 1000+ times.”
It may not seem like it, but I’m trying my hardest
“I’m trying really hard to appear normal and functional, so when you call me out, all you’re doing is letting me know that I’ve failed to present a passable charade, which makes me feel even more pathetic. People that are dealing with depression aren’t stupid and most are overly self-aware.”
And I’m not lazy, I can’t function
“I’m not staying in bed all day because I’m lazy, I literally can’t face leaving my room. I don’t enjoy this. I wish I could get up and go outside and do something. I wish I could be like “normal” people, but I can’t.”
Depression isn’t just sadness
“The Hmong people of South East Asia have a word for depression which translates directly to ‘loss of soul’. They believe that depression is caused by your soul literally leaving your body, and that you have to get it back.
“I do not believe souls exist and that is still the best way of describing what it’s like I can think of. It’s like something vital to your existence as a human is just gone for no reason, and you have no idea how to find it again.”
Practical advice almost never works
“An acquaintance of mine always says to me “you think too much” and one time he said “just stop thinking, it’s that easy” and after the couple of second it took to realise he was serious I respond with “OH PRAISE THE LORD, I’VE BEEN HEALED. ALL IT TOOK WAS YOU SAYING TO STOP THINKING. WHY DIDN’T I TRY THAT BEFORE??” I’ve already said that to myself millions of times. If it didn’t work those times, it sure as hell is not going to work now…”
Kindness goes a long way
“I can’t count the number of times this last year I’ve started bawling in public. I’m not ashamed to cry, but its getting ridiculous.
“Those people who attended to me when I was obviously hurting, From others on the bus to the police called about me being some kind of human disaster area. A pat on the back and some kind words go a long way.”
It’s not something that can be ‘fixed’, but I want a life for myself
“A lot of people try to tell me that it’s a “curable” problem, like I’ll just have to un-learn my depression and then I’ll be totally well. But for a lot of people, especially those of us who started showing symptoms when we hadn’t even hit puberty, it’s a biological condition that we’ll have to learn how to manage for our entire lives.
“I’m very likely never going to be able to make my brain function as a healthy brain does and I have to live my life accordingly. The thing that keeps me going is the hope that I can still live my life and still be a person in the world, provided i have the tools I need.”
Like any treatment, for any illness, it’s not perfect
“There’s a lack of understanding that medications, and even counselling and therapy comes with backlash. Side effects can be worse than the disease sometimes, and being picked apart and put under a microscope doesn’t always leave you feeling like much more than a turd society wants to scrape off its shoe.
“Getting better often means getting worse in the process. Nobody seems to have much sympathy for that. “You haven’t gone outside since your appointment, you need to get out there”. Yep. Will get right on that.”
And a final note on the most common response to mental illness…
“It’s all just in your head man.”
Well ya, and your diabetes is just in your pancreas.