An Open Letter to a Person with Mental Illness

Dear Person With Mental Illness,

You are not a monster. You are a valuable, unique, wonderful human being who deserves everything grand that this life has to offer. Come out of the shadows and stand proudly in who you are.

You are not damaged. You are whole, regardless of having a mental illness.

I like you the way you are. I wouldn’t change you. I see you differently than you see  yourself. I am not afraid of you or your illness … I am amazed by you. I am amazed by your courage, willpower, gifts and talents. I accept you, and your worlds of light and darkness.

Some people just have a “neighborhood” in their mind and they never get lost. You have endless terrain to explore, but sometimes you take a wrong turn and can’t find your way home. I love your vast landscape and remember … we can make you maps.

You can figure out how to stay safe and still sail on majestic seas of emotion.

You are not “crazy”. You are not violent. You are not the lame stereotypes.

Please stop blaming yourself. On top of the pain and exhaustion your illness causes, you blame, shame and hurt yourself more. Treat yourself as you would a friend with diabetes. Would you tell a dear friend that they are weak for taking insulin? To just snap out of it? No, you would give them so much compassion and kindness.

Please be gentle to your aching heart.

I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with the stigma of mental illness. I’m so sorry that after you’ve uttered the words “mental illness” something in the person who’s listening’s eyes or demeanor has changed. That’s their problem, not yours. 

Focus on your allies. Unsupportive people can stay on the shore while you sail into a cheesy postcard sunset. Don’t take along any of their hurtful words because they slow your ship down. Let them fly off the back. Only kindness is allowed on board. Cue Taylor Swift “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate … but you’re just gonna shake it off.” It’s okay to wave goodbye and not look back. Destination: Peace. 

People tell you that they were depressed once and cured themselves with yoga and green juices. Their cousin Jenny cured her anxiety by eliminating gluten, but she has amazing willpower. They say, “If you just thought more positively…”

Yes, maybe they had the blues that was lifted by berry smoothies and reading The Secret, but that is not what you have. You have a chronic illness that needs treatment. Do not feel one ounce of embarrassment or shame for taking medicine.

Medications can have side effects and risks but so can mental illness. Getting and staying with treatment is brave.

The ignorant people born with normal brain chemistry may say, “The big pharmaceutical companies are evil and putting everyone on mind numbing drugs!” Well, guess what? They saved your life. You don’t feel numb. You feel like you can get out of bed in the morning and make eggs. 

Mental illnesses have nothing to do with “not being strong enough.” They have nothing to do with your character. They have everything to do with being illnesses.

The world needs you and your story. You have been to hell and back and you are here to stay. “It gets better.” When a person is struggling, many people look away. They change the subject or suddenly need a drink refill. You reach your hand out into the darkness to find theirs. You share your lantern. You’re not afraid of the darkness, because you know it … you had coffee with darkness yesterday. He brought donuts. He doesn’t scare you like before. You know how to work with him. 

Please know that your illness has another side to it; the awesome side. (High-five, illness!) You are creative, artistic, and a dreamer. That same imagination that exhausts you with sad images and fearful scenarios can also dream up amazing art, music, business ventures etc. You’ve held so much pain that is now energy that you can use … what are you going to do with it? Create or destruct? Choose create. 

You are here for a reason.

Please remember you are not your illness. How could a label ever come close to all that you are? You’re a huge, amazing spirit. Your illness is an ant and your spirit is a dinosaur. You’re totally a T-Rex! RAWR!

Just because you are different doesn’t mean you are broken. Different people change the world, because they can see beyond what is.

Please stop picturing bad things happening. You’re not going to suddenly go crazy.Your friend doesn’t hate you because she hasn’t texted back. When you picture something going wrong, remember it could also go right. College could be better than high school. You could meet a wonderful partner. The next medicine could work. You could live a full, happy life. 

Yes, challenges will come but you can face them with all that you are when they are here. 

Focus on what is in front of you. Life is too short to be absent from it. 

We all make mistakes, whether we have a mental illness or not. We all act out in pain or confusion and do stupid, hurtful things. We are all human. It’s time to forgive yourself for everything. Guilt and shame slow your ship down too and you are ready to live free from them. You’re gaining more and more speed …

You are ready for life to take you to the most beautiful places. 

Please know that the media has no idea who you are. Fear is better for ratings than brilliance. You are not a person in the news in some scary, horrible story. You don’t even like killing bugs. Remember Lincoln, Plath, Mozart? You’re in good company. 

Please know you are worthy of love. Would you tell a friend with an illness that they weren’t worthy of a wonderful relationship? Would you date someone amazing who has an illness? You would and the right person will with you. You can have a mental illness and have a healthy, successful relationship. The right person will fall “madly” for you. Someone worthy (yes, they need to be worthy of you) will be crazy for you – cue Crazy in Love by Beyoncé. See now they are the crazy one!

Please remember to laugh and be ridiculous. Remember what you are grateful for. Remember the small joys and the big joys.

Think back on a time when a friend of family member made you laugh til you peed a little. (You’ve always had a weak bladder so that’s easy). Watch a funny, stupid movie. Take a bubble bath that smells like marshmallows. Take a mental health day and don’t feel one ounce of guilt.

Please know you are not alone. I have mental illness, too. I am you.

Love, Rachel

By Rachel Griffin, Huffington Post 

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