I’ve suffered from mental illness my entire life. I’ve been judged my entire life. I’ve been seen as “weak”, ignoring the strength it takes to keep going while in so much pain. My accomplishments are overshadowed by any lapses or failures. What hurts the most is not the mental illness but the betrayal of others in response to mental illness. I first attempted suicide when I was 11. That was first time I experienced the betrayal. I was told parents didn’t want me around their children anymore – I was a bad influence. In my 20’s my closest friend told me she couldn’t be my friend anymore because I was too “negative”. In my 30’s my parenting fell under the microscope and the risk of losing my children became a fear. Now, in my 40’s, I still can’t escape the judgements. I’m still running into people who look down on me. Now, however, I’m realizing that it’s them in the wrong not me.
If you don’t have a mental illness, let me share an analogy: when someone has depression it’s like falling into a pit of mud. You may know you’re in a pit. You may want to get out. You may be trying to get out and struggling. Around the edge of the pit are your friends and family. Some may be trying to help but don’t know how. Some may be there providing encouragement so that you start to make progress. Then there are those that look down on you for being in the pit as if it was your fault, as if you want to be in the pit. But those aren’t even the worst people. The worst are those that stand on the edge of the pit with their hands reaching downward but when you go to reach for the hand, they pull it back. They make you think they’re on your side when really. they’re the worst. They betray you. They condemn you. They abandon you.
I deal with judgement all the time. I know there are people who think less of me. It hurts but I can get past it. What has really hurt, devastated me even, are those people who act like they’re on my side only to reveal that they are not. They look at me in the pit with disgust. They take my prayer requests and use them as ammunition.
I’m not perfect. I know that but I also know that I’m not a failure either. I know I’m capable of giving back. I know I try as hard as I can. I persevere when all I want to do is give up. I am strong. I am FIERCE. I am an overcomer. You may not think highly of me. That’s fine. You are not who I serve. God sees me. He knows my heart. He knows my limitations but He also knows I am capable of great things. For those who see me as flawed, I agree, I am. I also know that if I have to choose between mental illness and a hardened heart, I’ll stay ill. I won’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I’ll share my weaknesses with others so we all know we’re not alone. I’ll be transparent and vulnerable and if you don’t like that, I’m okay with that, too. I live to serve God, not you. My daughter and I share this quote to inspire each other to not give up:
“You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
- Christopher Robin to Pooh
This remains true whether others see you as such or not.