How Can I Explain My Mental Illness To Those Closest To Me?

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Imani Clovis / Unsplash

Having to explain to anyone that you have mental illness can be a tough conversation to have. So, when you sit down to those closest to you and explain it? The conversation takes on a whole new level of difficulty. It can be hard for those closest to us to recognize mental illness when most would say that they have a pretty good understanding of who we are, and I am positive there is a lot of truth to that. What those closest to us are not able to recognize so easily are the signs we got good at hiding from others. Sometimes, those same signs were also the same signs we tried to hide from ourselves while living in denial. Although the topic may cause discomfort, mental illness is a conversation that needs to be had and one that we should be able to feel comfortable having.

Why are we not talking about this more?

Mental illness causes those impacted to feel a great sense of shame when having to own up, acknowledge, and address the ‘elephant in the room.’ It’s because of this shame that mental illness will go undiagnosed and ignored for so many years. When someone chooses to ignore the state of their mental health, they will find their own means of ‘coping’ with their life. It is also possible for someone to be suffering from mental illness and not have the tools, education, or self-awareness to even recognize it as such. This is a perfect example of why we need to be talking about these kinds of things much more than we are. If we are not even willing to have the conversation, how are those who are suffering supposed to ever learn that their ‘suffering’ has a name, a diagnosis, and most importantly, a solution? There is far too much suffering going on in this world that does not need to be occurring, and quite frankly, could be treated. Through discussing mental illness and by sharing our experiences, we can all come to a certain level of understanding for each other. Regardless of if you have mental illness or not, it is a conversation worth having.

When is a good time to talk about it?

Honestly, I am not sure there is ever a perfect time for anything, especially when referring to a ‘touchy’ subject. Not all people are well equipped to handle certain conversations, but with that said, you will learn rather quickly who you are able to trust talking to in regards to mental illness. Since I am being honest, it is not unlikely that you will recognize certain friendships or connections fade away once revealing this information about yourself. I know that it may be easy to be offended or hurt by that, but just know that someone else’s opinion of your mental illness has NOTHING to do with you, and so much more to say about the character of that person. It is always important for you to remember that your mental illness is just a piece of you, and it certainly does NOT define who you are. With that said, speak openly with those you trust with certain pieces of yourself, and those with good intentions will stick around despite your mental illness. Just because there may not be an ideal time to talk about it, there will be many moments where you find yourself with the right people, and you will be ready and willing to have that conversation worth having.

We do ourselves an injustice by staying quiet about what causes us suffering. By opening up and sharing some of the harder truths about who we are, we allow ourselves the opportunity to form and build new, stronger connections. By speaking up, we can inspire others to speak up as well, and over time, make mental illness just a topic instead of a stigmatized one. Remember, not all conversations are going to be comfortable, but that does not mean that they shouldn’t be had. TC mark

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