I know a person very close to me, who may never understand my experience of illness and recovery. I have tried to make them understand it as I spend quite a lot of time with this person and this person is someone who is very important to me. I care about this person’s opinion of me a lot, but I have realised that I must stop caring about it for the time being if I want to continue spending time with this person. We can talk about, and do, other things. We will not discuss my illness and my recovery.
When you are ill and vulnerable, how other people see your illness is very, very important. When you are frail and your self-confidence and sense of identity is shaken, the wrong kind of attitude towards what you’re going through can trigger more anxiety and unwellness. At the time I didn’t have the mental capacity to understand what was going on, but when your brain works again, you can see things clearly now. And I see the interaction and its effect on me and this person whenever I am with them. I also reflect on the past and see the damage done to me when ill, by this person. This person doesn’t know their attitudes affect me negatively and this person would never knowingly hurt me. They are not a bad person. But they are a person who doesn’t understand mental illness.
This person has had mental illness. They had it during a time in their life that was very stressful to them and it’s quite understandable that this person got ill. They got better luckily, and I stopped worrying about them so much. When this person was ill, I worried about them a lot. Because a person who is in denial of their illness is in much greater danger than someone who knows they are ill and is thus able to seek help.
When I refer to (it’s not something I do often, but I’ve done it once or twice) this person’s illness, this person gets angry. They say ‘I wasn’t depressed’ and deny their illness. I know that denial comes from shame and fear. You fear something you don’t understand, something you don’t know. You feel shame when you think that what has happened, was in some way your fault.
Thus I know, this person may never accept that I don’t have to feel shame. My illness isn’t my fault. They may fear that I understand mental illness better than they do, which, as a mental health professional and a long-term expert by experience, I absolutely do. It’s sad that these two things stop us from spending meaningful times together. I would like to. But I cannot spend too much time with someone who I don’t feel very safe with. I don’t want to spend time with someone who thinks what happened to me is my fault. It doesn’t help me be happy.
I’ve made peace with this. I’m moving on. My time with this person can be limited to moments of doing things that don’t touch on my illness or wellness. I have others in my life who accept me and wholly support and understand me. I am happy enough with that. Actually, I am pretty darn happy.