How would you describe your mental illness to me?
I would tell you to ask another question because it’s not as straightforward as that.
Instead, ask me why I’m so quick to dodge a hand with the pure intention of patting my back.
Ask me why the journal I carried in school was attached to my hip 24/7, never giving anyone another chance to steal it from me.
Ask me why I couldn’t raise my hand in class for more than a minute or two because my shoulder was in pain.
Ask me why my mind suddenly goes to another universe, leaving my present self in a daze.
Don’t ask me the overused and insincere, “how I would describe my mental illness,” and expect a real response.
It’s more personal than that.
A long time ago, I was randomly struck with the piece below. Maybe it will give some insight as to what people with mental illness deal with and why it really is so hard to explain…
I don’t know how to tell someone that the color pink reminds me of the hardest parts of my life — while, at the same time, red gives me the same kind of freedom a bird has flying through open skies.
I don’t know how to tell them that I can’t even look myself in a mirror for more than 5 seconds because I’m afraid I’ll find something to worry about.
I don’t know how to tell them that my shoulders hurt almost every day from putting my hair up 100 times just so it “feels” right.
I definitely don’t know how to tell them that I die at least three times a week in my dreams.
I don’t know how to tell them that I’m scared to fall asleep, but even more afraid to wake up.
I don’t know how to tell them that I in no way want to die, but I wonder what it’d be like to live.
I don’t know how to make them see things the way I do, then I understand that no one does or ever will.
I don’t know how to explain the way writing makes my entire being come to life, and how sharing my work makes my soul shine.
I don’t know how to tell them that I see myself being pushed in so many different directions, the only place I find myself standing is still.
I don’t know how to explain that I’ve felt completely alone for years, and how it takes every ounce of strength I have to keep my head from spinning.
I can’t possibly explain why someone brushing up against my arm makes me want to crawl out of my own skin — or how I’ve ripped many shirts off my own body because the fit wasn’t sitting with me.
I can’t tell them the way they speak certain words makes my ears ring because I’m so sensitive to particular sounds.
I can’t make them understand how fully I experience every little sensation, or how the big ones seem to affect me less…because how much sense does that make?
How much sense does any of it make?
When you ask someone with mental illness to explain what they go through, it’s not always as simple as answering the question. You will receive answers like “I’m sad all the time” or “I’m so anxious I can barely leave my house.”
Don’t get me wrong, those things are very valid. However, almost 100% of the time, the answer goes deeper than that. They just don’t know how to make you understand without coming across crazier than they already feel.
Think before you ask. That is all.