And They Will Call You by Your Illness

I think we’ll just dive right into this…

When you have a mental disorder, get ready to do four times the work. 

I have compulsive suicidal tendencies, severe anxiety, and mild OCD; cue the crazy, black woman trope. I have been instructed most of my life to invalidate my own symptoms, try everything and anything to pass for normal and to never tell anyone about it. One side of this metaphorical room will say “Yeah, no, that sounds smart”. The other side who has some kind of disorder will understand when I say “Bitch, that does not work.”

Personally, I am not the kind of person to say that someone is “crazy” because their behavior seems irrational or intense for the situation. My thinking is if so many of the people in your social circle can relate to memes alluding to suicide and anxiety in varying degrees, maybe leaping to discrediting each other via their disorder in disagreements is not the greatest move to make. However, that is exactly what is going to happen,  anytime and every time. The first move in an argument or confrontation is going to be attributing “unacceptable behavior” to “mental illness”. Which means, my dear, you will be seen as your mental illness.


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“So I should just give up on ever being treated like a human being.”


No.  You’re not responsible for people’s ignorance of what disorders are and how best to help you. You can link them to things that explain it and you can tell them what you need to facilitate the resolving of the situation. You’re going to get frustrated. It is frustrating. But it’s not impossible.

You need to understand you and your disorder are in a fucked up relationship. In both this relationship and people’s perceptions or expectations of that relationship (albeit limited and most likely misinformed), you only lose ground if you forget you have a voice and are more experienced dealing with this thing. You need to know what works and what doesn’t help you. You need to be able to communicate that in a way where anyone can understand what you’re asking of them.  While saying you need space is valid, not everyone understands what space means in that context. You shouldn’t be afraid to say “I am feeling overwhelmed, can I have a moment alone?” and if people make you feel like you should be afraid… don’t bother with them.

“Relationships are already madness, why am I bothering with this?”

Asking anyone to prepare for your specific combination of issues before you meet them is…well, it’s nonsense really. It’s more concerning when you punish people for not being ready to deal with those things and they’re genuinely trying.

No, really and the reason why is worse than you think.

You cannot go into a relationship expecting people to be perfect for you (which leads right back to the being able to communicate your deal to other people). In other words, your partner or friend or co-worker is not going to be equipped to deal with this like your therapist. Stop expecting them to be your therapist. Because you can’t fire your friends the same way you just stop going to a therapist. If you try to, you leave people feeling used or guilty. You feel disappointed and betrayed, taking it out on them in various mediums of resentment (that’s not good by the way). Nobody grows because no one is given a chance. You also train yourself to react to any disappointment as the worst kind of disappointment. So you never understand what progress looks like or how to ask for help or even how to give it. Usually, from this perspective, it’s always bad.


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Credit: Flickr

You can’t avoid every trigger…

I think anyone who lets you believe holding yourself away from the world as a coping mechanism is… not your friend. My suicidal tendencies have no set trigger. It comes from nowhere with no precursor of a bout of depression. I did try the hide away from the world method through a gradual increase of sleeping pills for two years.  Surprise, that did not help me in the long run.

What did help was identifying what horrible justifications my brain likes to make for killing myself and then circumventing them. “No one cares about you.” is its favorite. Define care. Define no one. Who would you like to care about you? What does someone caring about you look like? What has to come before someone caring about you? Do you demonstrate that you care about those people? What could you change in the way you are now to build relationships with people that didn’t make “No one caring about you” sound so plausible?

Does the entire value of your life hang on what this one person thinks you?

See, asking those questions used to be impossible, now it’s the reflex. That’s probably four years of day in/day out training myself to make that the go to instead of throwing the keys across the room and drinking myself silly in order to pass out.

You need to become the boss of this relationship. Not silencing it but working with and understanding it. 

People are going to belittle every aspect of your disorder, your success will drown them out. 

I imagine that when I say success, some far off fantasy springs to mind before, say, getting out of bed and putting on pants today, right? You have to learn to hold the little successes a little higher than the big ones until they start feeling natural. Use a personal rewards system, post about it, make yourself feel good about the progress you’re making. Sometimes, what’s normal and forgettable for one person is a monumentally impossible task for another. Signing my own name in front of someone triggers my anxiety (people looking at me, in general, will give me heart palpitations). The world doesn’t need to celebrate it but I feel it, “Go me, I didn’t run away from a stranger telling me my veil looks nice.” Also talking about it normalizes life with a disorder, informs people about it and possibly gives them a hint for how they can help you.

Learn to truly recognize yourself.

You’re not going to get very far if everytime you make a little progress that’s rough around the edges, you tear yourself down and have other people pile on. You are going to make mistakes. That’s great. I hope they’re mistakes you get to learn from and be forgiven for. You’re not always going to get closure or be seen as a full person. That doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself closure or see yourself as a full person.


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It’s pronounced “metaphor”. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Learn a different way of talking to yourself. Stop telling yourself “I’m a failure.” “I’m dumb.” “That’s too hard for me.” Did you mean “I need to work on…”, “I should be more careful…”, “I’d like to be better at…”? I”m just curious, have you ever tried talking to yourself…nicely? Recognize your true worth. It’s great to have dramatic high moments of “I AM a boss.” but overall, in learning to communicate through the film of your disorder to other people, you have to demonstrate you have some true self-awareness. (Also so you can actually develop into the boss the dramatic you likes so much.) If you can’t see yourself clearly you’re not really going to know what to work on, so you’re going to have wicked highs and traumatic lows. Expand your vocabulary, shift your perspective. Let’s go back to the no one cares about me example I used earlier. If I held tightly to what passive knowledge I had at 15, 16 years old about what it means to care about someone, I wouldn’t be able to progress past it. That applies to the vocabulary you use to define yourself, your boundaries and the world around you. Give other people the treatment you want for yourself. 

What if I do all of that and they still don’t listen?

Learn to let go of those people, not yourself. I’ve tried accepting other people’s definitions of my choices, my behavior, my everything and it makes things way worse. It’s like trying to live two different lives at the same time. I think if you tell someone you’re in pain because of what they’re doing and they don’t listen, you need to get some distance from that person. It hurts, it’s not fun, but nothing is set in stone. I’ve had people come back to apologize. Again, not impossible, but you can’t put your life on hold for it.

You have to remember you are not your disorder. Not everyone you meet is going to understand or even want to. That doesn’t make you any less of a person and you shouldn’t regress and withdraw into yourself like it does.

You can do this.

There’s more to living the strange life after you’ve caught your breath, so please take a moment to Join the Strange Collective at the top of this page. For a different perspective follow me on InstagramFacebookTumblr and YouTube.

Until next time,

Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

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