It's a funny term, that one.
Nobody really likes the phrase. Most people aren't even sure if it's a politically correct term to use. I mean, think about it. What's the first visual that pops into your head when you hear it? A sterile, checker-tiled floor in a room full of people in a sanitarium...one dude is slapping his hand over his face repeatedly...some woman is babbling in tongues to herself...then you've got the guy in the corner playing ping-pong using his slipper. Right? C'mon, be honest. It's what I visualize.
The thing is, mental illness isn't just about people who are clinically insane. It's about people like you. And me. And that person over there. And that chic on TV. And that baseball player with the 105 RBI. And that singer who did the duet with what's-his-name.
None of us are drooling on ourselves, so let's stop with the uneasiness of the term "mental illness," okay?
I'm sure I can be defined by a half-dozen terms in the DSM-IV, but to sum it up, I have anxiety, depression and borderline agoraphobia. No, I'm not afraid of spiders (okay, well, I am, but more so because they're creepy, not because I'm nuts). It means that I have days when I cry all day. For no reason. Fun, right? And there are days when it feels like my heart is a shorted-out cord zapping me constantly. Equally enjoyable, yes? And the agoraphobia? Remember having that dream where you're being chased but your feet can't move and you're stuck there just waiting for whatever monster your twisted subconscious has created to catch up with you? Yeah, it's like that. Except for me, the monster is the unknown of whatever is outside my door, at the store, in the airport, at a concert, on a ship, at a friend's house. It's a shit-ton of fun, lemme tell you.
But what those things aren't? Is a reason to avoid me. Or avoid talking about what's wrong. I don't expect you to fix it. If I did, I wouldn't be paying my therapist to do it, trust me! But if you care enough about me to ask me how I am, then I expect you to care enough to listen when I say "I'm not doing okay." Don't change the subject. Don't act like you didn't hear me. Don't suddenly disappear from my life until it's "back to normal" (because, let me give you a hint -- it will never be "back to normal").
My mental illness is as much a part of me as my great sense of humor, my beautiful eyes or my contagious laugh. Love all of me or don't love any of me. 'cause here's the thing: I already have good friends. Incredible friends. AMAZING friends. Friends who are here for the good, the bad and the ugly. I don't need someone who's only going to be here when the getting's good. If you're in, you're all in. If you're not, then you might as well leave now. I don't need you.
That may sound flippant and even a bit harsh, but the truth of the matter is, if there's anything I've learned in the thirty years I've dealt with this, I don't have the energy for bullshit. Love me or leave me. It's that simple.
Now...has anybody seen my slipper?