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Severe Mental Illness and Instagram


I recently read an Instagram post from a friend of mine. He had written of his struggle with mental illness and the pain he was in. He wrote of his desire to escape the pain through death. As I read his words my heart broke, but I was also wracked with fear. Expressing that level of pain on Instagram was asking for a backlash. Letting people know of his struggle indiscriminately was risking judgement and disapproval. I know because I’ve been there.


I’ve become very vocal about my struggle with mental illness but I’m still very careful with what I share. As someone with a severe mental illness, I am extremely high functioning. I’ve been able to hold down a job and serve in ministry. I have supportive relationships. I also know I’m one medication away from living on the streets, locked into a delusion that offers no escape.


I told my friend to take the post down. I told him future employers could use it against him and he risked alienating and sabotaging future relationships. I wish people would read his words and offer the love and support I know he seeks but I also know that wasn’t likely to happen. He was more likely suffer more rejection than he’s already coping with.


So, I’m using my words to educate those that judge people with mental illness. I know it’s scary. I know it’s hard to understand. I know it’s easier to avoid people who hear voices, see things, and believe crazy ideas that make no sense to anyone but the person experiencing them. I also know, most of the time, even when we desperately need others, we battle this alone. Yes, we may have people who try to love us and be there for us, but our experiences are in our head. You can’t see our demons, but they are very real to us. So, if you know someone or love someone with a severe mental illness, please don’t run away. I know you don’t “get it” but stand by us anyway. Help us know we are valued despite our struggle. Know we are not weak because of our illness. On the contrary, we are stronger than you can imagine because every day we fight. We fight the hallucinations and delusions. We fight the depression that drags us down into a pit of despair. We fight the isolation and rejection. We just want to be loved like everybody else, so please stand by us while we persevere.


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