Your Mental Illness Is Hurting Me
Updated: May 21, 2020
Recently, I have had a few conversations with people on the other side of mental health. These are the people who interact with those who suffer from mental illness. These people often silently take jabs (both figuratively and literally) from those who suffer. They are repeatedly met with unfair criticism, manipulation, disdain, distrust, or aggression. And they may hear excuses about why these actions happen such as, "It's my mental condition." While I think some disorders may make it harder to refrain from being hurt, others use their mental condition as an excuse for bad behavior. As someone who has been on both sides, I can say that you don't get a pass to harm people due to your condition, physical or mental. I think it is counterproductive to the healing process to not hold someone accountable for their actions. I am guilty of this behavior both for and to others. I have both caused and had my share of painful conversations, sleepless nights, and sobbing due to someone's attacks and untreated mental and emotional health. The saying is true, "I am in therapy for everyone in my life who won't go to therapy." And even for people who are in therapy, it is still a struggle to walk with them at times.
I also think that until you have lived the intense pain of having mental health struggles, you do not know the full extent of the burden. I am not talking about the church's definition of depression, which often is mischaracterized sadness. I mean debilitating (and many times lifetime) pain from the condition. It is easier to (often momentarily) sympathize with someone in physical pain because we assume mental pain is less intense.
To me, living with a mental health condition is like walking on your tippy-toes while on eggshells, standing on hot coals, in the middle of a hurricane, trying to dodge raindrops, while holding 100 pounds of luggage in each hand. Everyone thinks they are delicately walking around you trying not to hurt you, but they don't realize how much you are struggling to do the same. Sometimes the pain of being alone is less intense than the pain of hurting or being hurt by others.
I have seen people gossip and make fun of people with mental health disorders, even some who should know better. I have seen people use the words "psycho" and "crazy" so loosely, it is disheartening. I have heard people joke about not paying attention and having ADHD or about having PTSD. I know much of it comes from a place of ignorance. Some of it from a place of jealousy at the person who gets help because of one's failure to admit weakness. Some of it comes from a place of hurt.
I also know that many who struggle in this manner want to do well and love well, and not be in pain. I do think one should protect him/herself against harmful and toxic situations with people in general.
The thing is, we all hurt people intentionally and unintentionally. For instance, some blame their mental health disorder for their behavior. Some blame a substance. Some blame the devil. Some blame God. Some blame the lack of coffee or the lack of sleep they have had. Since we all at one time or another have used excuses for our wrongful actions, we should not criticize or mistreat a whole population of people based on their similar actions.
It is okay to be upset and angry with a person with mental health issues. Sometimes, it may even be best to cut off the relationship. But I do think many conflicts and relationships can be resolved with a little understanding on both sides. Let's show each other grace. We are all just trying to figure this love thing out.