Mental illness is one of the most misunderstood illnesses out there. It’s hard to understand what is going on in a person’s mind especially when that mind is sick. Many jump to conclusions and make the wrong assumptions. Making assumptions can be insulting and frustrating to the person suffering with this illness. It also leads to prejudices and the wrong treatment of a person who is struggling. Before you draw a conclusion, it’s best you know your facts.
I have had many make the wrong assumptions about me just because they knew I had mental illness. It has made me angry and hurt, and it has also led me further into my dark depression. Below are some conclusions people make about a person going through mental illness. This is only a few and isn’t ones made of all types of mental illnesses.
- Don’t assume because a person with mental illness is crying really hard during a rough time he or she needs to take an antidepressant to feel better. When I went to my grandfather’s viewing years ago, I started crying very hard at the sight of my grandpa’s body. Someone I knew asked me if I needed to take an antidepressant. I was insulted and hurt. I was just grieving. Only a psychiatrist can tell a people when they need an antidepressant and when they don’t.
- Don’t assume because someone is a self-injurer you have to watch them around sharp objects at all times like at a work place. When I returned to work after being hospitalized, a so-called friend told everyone I work with to watch me around sharp knives. This led to a lot of prejudice. When I got upset at work, I had a box cutter in my hand. I was just holding it, but my manager accused me of injuring. I was forced into an office and made talk to crisis worker. Crisis is a hotline you call when a person with mental illness needs someone to talk to or is in dire need of help. If my manager had educated herself on self-injury, she would have known self-injurers do not hurt themselves in public. My fellow workers also questioned me every time I picked up something sharp at work. I was humiliated and it threw me deeper into my dark hole.
- Don’t assume you know what it feels like to have depression because you went through a sad time in your life. There is a difference from having a period of sadness because of a rough time and having a chemical imbalance in your mind. When I was deeply depressed a person told me she understood my depression because she got depressed after she cheated on her husband and he found out. It wasn’t the same thing. She was depressed because of a situation I was depressed because of an illness. I couldn’t fix my sadness without medication and therapy. She could fix hers by working things out with her husband.
- Don’t assume that watching a funny movie or thinking happy thoughts will magically make depression disappear. I went to a therapist who told me if I thought happy thoughts and watched a happy movie I would feel better. I was angry with her. Why would I seek out a therapist if it were that easy to get better? I couldn’t feel happiness, no matter how hard I tried. I had to find another therapist because she was not helping me. The funny thing is when I went to a service my job had to help employees find a counselor, the person whom I talked to about my incompetent therapist was my therapist’s husband.
- Don’t assume when a person is depressed he or she can just snap out of it. Depression is a serious illness that takes lots of work, therapy, and medication to get out of. The one who is depressed can’t just snap his or her fingers and she or he will be happy again. If it were that easy there wouldn’t be therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists. When I was in deep depression a friend kept telling me to snap out of it. When I couldn’t she got mad at me. She in time ended the friendship. I was very hurt and I fell further into my darkness. I wanted to just make my illness go away for her, but I couldn’t. It took years of therapy, hard work, and medication for me to find happiness and even at that I am not cured. I have to constantly manage my illness for the rest of my life to stay in recovery.
- Don’t assume the person’s feelings and illness is all in his or her head. He or she is not making up how he or she feels. His or her feelings are very real and so is his or her illness. The person is not making it up for attention. I was once told I was making up my feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and sadness. It made me angry. I was furious that someone I cared about wasn’t taking how I felt seriously. This made me feel more alone and I felt I couldn’t share how I felt with anyone because they wouldn’t believe me. I then internalized my feelings and it made me fall deeper into sadness.
Instead of making assumptions about mental illness, try to educate yourself about it. You can be a big help to a loved one who is struggling if you understand mental illness. Making the wrong conclusions can send your loved one deeper into his or her illness. You can hurt him or her deeply. If you want to truly help him or her, educate yourself and find him or her the proper help.
Even though lots of people have made the wrong assumptions, I also had people who were willing to learn about my illness and stand at my side as I fought to find recovery. Because of the help of friends and family who cared enough to help me the proper way, I am standing proudly in the light of recovery.