I Can’t Talk About My Mental Illness
“Who can I talk to about my mental illness?”
So, you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. You might be feeling like your world is coming to an end, but it’s not. Life goes on, and it’s up to you to “keep on keepin’ on.” And you are not alone.
There are things in everyone’s life that don’t make one eager to share with others: A break-up, job loss, loss of a pet or a significant person in one’s life, a mental illness diagnosis, etc. The list goes on.
Who can you talk to about your mental illness? Why would you want to? Whom can you trust? It’s easy for many people to shut down and turn inward at times when what they really should be doing is building a support system and getting buy-in, support, and understanding from others, especially those they feel closest to friends, family members, trusted members of the clergy, a trusted counselor.
The most important thing for you to remember is that you are NOT your mental illness, and you should never feel ashamed about being diagnosed with one. You’re not inferior to anyone because of your diagnosis. It’s not your fault and there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with you. You shouldn’t feel any more ashamed than if you were to have broken an arm, or caught a cold.
You have a condition, a mental illness, it is manageable, and it’s absolutely OK to talk about it.
The more you talk openly about your mental illness, the easier it will get. It’s just your “normal.” If you’ve decided to confide in someone you about your mental illness, you might feel anxious about how it will go, what the person may think, and what he or she may say.
Everyone’s different, and no two people will ever have the exact same response to a situation, but most human beings are rational and reasonable. Your odds are good that they won’t “flip out” or ostracize you from society, especially if they are someone who cares about you like a parent, sibling, significant other, or friend. Don’t let the fear of rejection control you.
What can you expect when it comes to this kind of conversation?
This conversation is merely the opening of an ongoing dialogue. No, talking about mental illness is not just a “one and done,” kind of scenario. There will be plenty of more interactions and conversations in the future. At least you’ve gotten much of the “heavy lifting” done by opening the doors for an honest prologue.
Though it might feel awkward at first, you’ll probably feel somewhat relieved to get this off of your chest. It might be tough to broach the subject, but remember that it’s always cathartic to be able to open up and share something that’s been weighing on you and that you have been guarded about. Chances are the person you’re sharing with has had similar personal experience, or knows someone who has received a similar diagnosis. This should help you feel not so alone.
Anticipate questions. For example, “How long have you known about this?” “Can you tell me what it’s like?” “Did something traumatic happen to trigger all this?” “How are you managing it?” You are under no obligation to have an appropriate response to every question. In fact, “I’m not sure how to respond to that” or “I’m not sure how to describe it for you” are perfectly acceptable and reasonable answers. The person probably isn’t “grilling you” or being nosey. He or she probably wants to understand what you’re experiencing and feeling in order to be able to help.
What if the person doesn’t understand? This may happen, and even though the person you’re sharing with may have some experience, they may not be able to relate to exactly what you’re struggling with. He or she may not know what it “looks like.” That’s also OK. You don’t need him or her to possess a full understanding of your plight in order to feel validated yourself.
The reaction you’re hoping for? Prepare yourself for the reality that you might not get it. It might feel frustrating to open up a dialogue that’s so meaningful to you only to be told “M’eh, it’s all in your head,” or “Everyone feels blue from time to time. It’ll pass,” or “You should think more positively,” or “Don’t be so dramatic; you’re fine!” Though it’s often unpleasant to hear the things that people are “supposed to say” in such a situation, try to remember that it’s just social conditioning that prompts such responses. Be patient and make it clear that your mental illness is making it extremely difficult for you to live a happy and healthy life, and that you aren’t sure exactly how to proceed toward a resolution. If for whatever reason the individual doesn’t quite “get you,” don’t let it faze you, and don’t let it push you back into despair. Who else can you share with to open up a more constructive dialogue?
The journey ahead may seem long, but it’s worth it. Your mental health issues might be the result of a specific event or situation (e.g., mourning a loss), but once you’ve had time to process your thoughts and feelings, your condition may improve significantly. An adjustment or change may also be just what you need (like getting a transfer or a new job if you’ve been dealing with a bully at work). You may, however, have a long term illness. While mental illness is common and treatable, it might take a few different tactics and approaches before you find what works for you personally.
You may need to talk to a mental health professional next. Don’t put it off, and remember that your mental illness is NOT a reflection of your inherent value as a human being. Your mental health professional’s responsibility is to assist you in finding your way to a place where you feel confident at having the tools and coping skills to effectively manage your mental health going forward. A combination of appropriate medication and counseling can be very effective, and in many cases, it may not be an every week thing, necessarily.
Finally, yet another reminder: No matter how anyone responds to you sharing about your mental illness, you are NOT your mental illness, so never give up on yourself. You can do this.
Are you worried about not feeling confident talking to anyone about your mental illness? Remember that it’s treatable and manageable! If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.