I’ve been there. Maybe you’ve been there, too.
Mental illness is no joke. While memes make depression and emotional distress a more approachable and even laughable topic, the struggles of having a mental illness are very real. I was inspired to write this post after reading an interesting conversation on my friend’s Facebook page.
Because I don’t have permission to share my friend’s post, I can summarize it briefly.
Having a mental illness makes it O-K to have a breakdown, or to suffer in some way. Having a mental illness does NOT make it O-K to upset or insult people around you without acknowledging and apologizing for your actions where it is due, or preventing this altogether.
I think this is a very compelling and valid concept. Having a mental illness makes functioning in the same ways otherwise-healthy individuals would difficult, and sometimes even impossible. However, treating others poorly or participating in self-destructive actions with no regard to consequences is not healthy, helpful, or fair to ones self or others.
Mental illness is a valid reason for emotions and often time actions. A fine line does need to be drawn between mental illness related actions and simply not taking accountability for meltdowns, traumatic episodes, or other mental illness related behaviors.
I’ve compiled a brief list of examples to better explain my point.
DON’T: not show up to work because of a panic attack, leaving your boss and coworkers worried, upset, or left with a higher volume of work because they are unexpectedly picking up your shift.
DO: communicate with your manager or company to let them know what is going on. If privacy is an issue, make sure to at least call out of work or schedule PTO in advance.
DON’T: ghost friends or family who were planning to talk to you or see you. That is rude and not respectful of their time.
DO: respect your own space and boundaries, and let friends and family know you aren’t feeling well enough to chat on the phone or go to the movies this time. It is O-K to not socialize, to not want to talk, or to just be alone for however long you need- just make sure to not completely inconvenience others by doing so.
DON’T: have an anxiety or trigger related breakdown with no plan for recourse or for post-episode treatment.
DO: apologize and plan ahead. It is OK to have breakdowns or episodes, especially during early days of treatment or if treatment is not yet possible or in the works. However, having a plan to calm down, or at the least knowing how to apologize and explain yourself to others during or after, is important and absolutely necessary.
I know first hand how incredibly difficult an anxiety attack or a depressive episode can make normal, everyday human functioning. On a happy note, I am aware of these issues and am working on mechanisms to aid in my episodes in therapy. I also always do my best to not inconvenience those who matter like my employer, friends or family when I am struggling most.
Mental illness is 100% a VALID and LEGITIMATE reason to need space, time, or extra consideration. But we who struggle also have to keep accountability to ourselves, in any way comfortably possible throughout our struggle and treatment. Mental illness is a reason, but not necessarily an excuse.
What do you think?