5 Things You Should Know Before Talking About Your Mental Illness:

While I’ve suffered from mental illness most of my life, I haven’t always understood how important it is to really be heard by the people in my life. The idea of talking about what I go through with others never seemed to be an option. Regardless, suffering alone is quite, well, lonely. Since opening up about my issues with chronic mental illness, I’ve received a bounty of love and support and also a heaping load of trash.

Below I’ve mapped out 5 things you should know about when you decide you are ready to be heard.

Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

  • You’ll spend a lot of time wondering if it’s worth explaining.

Most of the time you’ll spend prepping to talk about your mental illness is listening to a doubt filled track playing in your mind – on repeat. You’ll spend a lot of time questioning whether or not you’re wasting your time by really explaining what goes on in your brain. You’ll go over conversations in your head while you imagine the reactions of your friends and family, you’ll practice the banter while you shower, and mentally edit what you’re going to say nonstop.

  • You’ll have a hard time explaining.

When you’re finally ready to talk about it – you’re going to be at a loss of words, despite all the shower speeches you rehearsed. You could be the greatest public speaker in the country, but once you start to really get vulnerable, you’ll have a hard time finding ways to communicate. You’ll struggle to make eye contact, your voice will waver and shake, you will break and pause and fill the silence with a lot of uhhhs and ummms.

  • You’ll regret telling some people about what goes on with you.

In the time after to open up, you’ll be flooded with regret regardless of how your confidants react to what you tell them. They could have said all the right things, comforted you, and truly listened in the way you needed – this doesn’t mean that a part of you won’t regret saying what you needed to say. A small voice in the back of your mind will try and convince you that you would’ve been better off keeping quiet.

  • Some people will pretend they know what you’re going through.

After you start being more vocal about what you experience, some people will absolutely try and relate their own experiences to yours, even if they don’t match up at all. The will compare the sadness that comes when a pet passes to your chronic depression. They will compare the time they were bullied for their haircut in middle school to your PTSD. Some will try and lichen their fear of spiders to your panic disorder. It’s human nature to try and find a way to connect to one another, but it can occasionally be a bit offensive or condescending when someone aims to compare what you go through with things they deal with, or worse – try to normalize or belittle your illness by telling you they experience something (not even close to your clinical diagnostic) and tell you how it’s “normal”.

  • Some people will not take you seriously.

Whether it’s your mom, your best friend, your coworker, your father-in-law, or whomever you decide to open up to, there’s a chance that some of the people you open up to will not take you seriously. They will not be educated enough on what you experience to even being to give your diagnosis the weight it really holds. They will tell you that you drink too much coffee, that you need to “let it go”, that you should read this book/try yoga/ meditate/drink kombucha/ follow this Instagram that posts “the most inspirational quotes!” It won’t matter what you say – they will not grasp what you are saying, they simply won’t be able to.

Despite whatever your mind may be telling you, and despite what I’ve laid out in this post – let it be known, there is so much importance in being heard, I talk about the benefits of that here.

Above anyone and anything else, you know your truth, and you know what you need.

You are brave.

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