I apologize if some things come off as angry. They are not intended to be.
1. It Doesn't Automatically Make You Dangerous
I'm not violent. I don't throw chairs or slash throats. Sure, I get mad; everyone does. I may at times get mad more easily than others or over seemingly inconsequential things but it doesn't mean that I will hurt you.
2. Meds Don't Fix Everything. They Treat Symptoms.
"Did you take your meds today?" Drugs aren't miracles. They can't cure everything. They can't cure HIV or Cancer. Don't assume that just putting me on meds makes it all perfect. It just controls the symptoms.
3. Mental Illness Is Not Synonymous With Learning Disabilities.
I can understand complex issues. I do not have a low IQ. Just like the rest of the population some of us are smarter than others. In fact, some of are smarter than some of you. :)
4. Everything I Do Is Not Just Because Of My "Mental Health Issues".
In the hospital once I was scared, sad and alone - so I cried, a normal reaction for most people. Because of my diagnosis they sedated me because I was showing signs of "distress and depression". The next time I made sure to stay calm because being sedated messes with anyone's cognitive skills. Yet I was told I appeared unconcerned and detached. When the mind is preoccupied with the diagnosis of mental illness it is hard to recognize that such emotions are normal, not everything I do is because of what it says on my chart.
5. It Is An Illness - I Can Have Relapses
People sometime comment that they can't believe I just came out of the hospital or can't believe I have a mental illness because I don't fit into their mental schematic of "crazy". It's an illness that can come and go, some days are better than others. Just like cancer. In fact grief and post-partum depression are both sometimes referred to as temporary mental illnesses. (The plea of "temporary insanity" anyone?) I don't go around talking to imaginary people all the time and even those who do have moments of lucidity. In fact they could probably have more and/or longer moments if they had access to the right medications and/or treatments.
6. There Are Many Types Of Mental Illness
People have a perception and stereotype many times of mental illness being the homeless man wandering and muttering to himself but mental illness comes in many forms. Emotional instability, anxiety, depression, paranoia, to name just a few.
7. People Can't Succeed In Life With Mental Illness
It does not have to be debilitating. Many with mental illness are crippled by the discrimination and judgment of others just as much as by the illness itself. A new book by Nassir Ghaemi, A First-Rate Madness, argues that many of our most respected world leaders may have been given a creative edge via mental illness. Joanne Greenberg, author of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (a semi-autobiographical account of her youthful experiences with schizophrenia), not only became a respected author of many novels and short stories but also a lecturer, mental illness and deaf services advocate and a volunteer EMT. Many people with mental illness lead "normal" lives and raise "normal" children.
8. You Don't Have To Walk On Eggshells
As an individual diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (as well as depression and PTSD) I personally take offense to the title of the popular book Stop Walking On Eggshells. You don't necessarily have to. Ill or not, we are all different. Many of us don't get upset over every little thing although a few may. Don't feel like you can't ask questions. As long as you don't ask judgmentally, I'd rather be asked than have misconceptions grow. Curiosity is not a crime. However we might not always have an answer. Sometimes things just happen, sometimes actions don't have a rational reason behind them. Sometimes I can't even remember doing certain things. As long as you don't mind not always receiving an answer, I don't mind receiving the question.
9. There Isn't Always A Direct Cause.
Many mental diagnosis are more common in people with a history of sexual abuse or other past traumas but this does not mean that this was the cause. If a person tells you they are schizophrenic, bipolar or histrionic it does not mean that they were sexually abused as a child.
10. We Can't Hold Onto Stable Relationships
Although this may be a subset of leading a "successful" life, (who determines success anyway?) it is such a prevalent misconception I feel that it needs its own section. Mary Todd Lincoln is usually cited as "suffering" from bipolar disorder, (another pet peeve, who are others to determine that we are always "suffering") yet she remained with her husband until his death and had 4 kids with him.One may argue that she couldn't have gotten a divorce anyway as the First Lady in the year 1861. But even if she had wanted to, hers is only one of many examples.
11. People With Mental Illness Always Want To Die Or All Suicide Victims Have Mental Illnesses
Many entries in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) have as a criterion "suicidal ideation" but this does not mean it must be present since many diagnosis require only a certain number of the criteria to be met. It also does not mean it's present all the time. Moods change as situations vary. As stated above, extreme grief is sometimes seen as temporary insanity with strong emotional responses and irrational thinking. A person who has just lost a spouse may wish to join him or her but it is generally a temporary feeling. (This is the reason suicide hotlines are so important, just being there until the feeling subsides.) With mental illness the feeling may simply be longer, more frequent or with less obvious provocation. For many it does not occur at all. We are not all "suffering, all of the time but we would like help when we are just like everyone else having a bad day.
12. There Is No Hope
It is true that many mental illnesses are innate and not curable but this does not mean that there is no hope for a better tomorrow. I'd like once again to compare mental illness to physical illness (because I don't believe there is much of a difference). I have a friend who has many sever allergies. A few years ago this would have been seen as an unfortunate thing she would just simply have to work around. For some different strains that is still the case. However for a few strains she is currently receiving a series of shots that will eventually build up her immune system against the allergic reactions. They may not be able to prevent or cure the allergies but they are helping relieve the symptoms. Those whose lives are being disrupted by mental illness symptoms can be helped by SSRIs, SNRIs, anti-psychotics or other medicines. As medical research continues other symptoms may be regulated by treatment as well even if it cannot be cured. Just because someone is currently having a hard time and their disorder is incurable does not mean that they cannot reach a better place in the future with the right treatment.
13. We Would Give Anything To Be "Cured".
Although mental illness can be extremely hard at times I fear what I may have been without it. Would I be less accepting of differences? Would I have less fortitude? I personally disagree with the term "personality disorder". Everyone has a different personality. What makes some people's personality "disordered"? Normal is being different and I am different. Therefore it follows that I am also normal.