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Do I Scare You?

Does my vulnerability unnerve you? Does my honesty make you feel uneasy? Do my weaknesses hit to close to home?

I have learned that not everyone appreciates the work it takes to battle mental illness. It drives me crazy when people act like it is a choice I’ve made or is under my ability to control. While those of us who struggle with mental illness are able to influence the course of our disease, it is not curable. So, I am judged. Whether it is being seen as weak for not being able to manage better or too crazy to even try to be understood. Some people just don’t or won’t try to understand the crazy world I live in.

I am a people pleaser. I want people around me to be happy. I try to be nice and caring, considerate and loving but, for all my desires and intentions, I live in a world that is frequently cruel and uncaring, insensitive and hating.

I am continuously doing all I can to maintain my sanity. I take my medication religiously. I exercise and watch my diet. I try to make sure I get enough sleep at night despite the exhaustion that comes with anti-psychotic medications. Each day, I start my day in physical pain and then the voices begin their barrage and I begin the struggle, trying to discern reality. I try to act “normal”, curbing the winces and tics courtesy of the psychosis that sits in the corner, waiting for an opportunity to make me miserable. I have some successes. I have a master’s degree, a job, and I volunteer in the community. I try to maintain a positive outlook but all my efforts do not provide a magical cure. When I feel depressed or anxious, I have to cope with those feelings, not deny or minimize them. My positive affirmations are usually drowned out by the voices shouting at me, laughing at my affirmations, knowing that they have the microphone.

It is hard to appreciate the blessings given to me when there is a black cloud hanging over my head. I am acutely aware of the struggle I am facing and what I’ve lost because of this illness. I’ve lost jobs and relationships. Not everyone can understand what even I don’t understand. My senses betray me. I feel the “demon bugs” crawling over me. My logic is impaired. I can’t logically reach conclusions when my reality has tilted. I walk an earth that has been remade into hell. The voices that torment me continuously become the voices of demons or Satan himself. As hard as I try, as much as I want, I can’t escape the wrongness I battle.

I am lucky. I have friends who stand with me who also suffer from mental illness. We love and support one another. When all I can do is scream, “Why, God, do you HATE me?!!!”, when I don’t understand what is happening and squeeze my head to drown out all sound, my friends wait for me, praying. We all know that the episodes don’t last forever. But, when in the midst, it sure feels like it will. We remind each other that change is coming and we are loved, we are not alone.

For those that don’t have a mental illness or who don’t want to try to understand, this message is for you. I’m sorry you only want to see stoicism not vulnerability. I am STRONG but I’m not invincible. I will not lie to make you comfortable. I will face my situation head on. You want to say I’m weak, that my struggles are solvable if I was just strong ENOUGH, but just because I go under the waves that crash against my mind, I am FIERCE and I will do all I can to survive even when my mind wants me to give up, give in to the pain, and stop the fight.

Do I scare you? That’s on you. I am sharing the reality I know, not the one I wish I had. If you can’t handle who I am, that’s okay. But whether I spark concern or sympathy, fear or anger, look inside. I don’t have the resources to worry about you. I’ve got my hands full fighting my fight every day.

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