When you have a mental illness, you see the world a little differently. You’ve walked through the fiery darkness and have come out the other side a little bit singed. There are scars from burns that will always be there. You wish it were different. You wish that you were pure, unscathed, ignorant to the pain you’ve felt before. But, life is different.
Because of this, your values might be different. Your wants and desires: different. Your expectations for the world: different. You learn to see the world through a different lens: one of self-protection and self-preservation.
You are an egg, fragile, cracked, waiting for one more whack to spill you open. So, your focus becomes self-care. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. You have to take care of yourself, protect yourself, preserve yourself in order to keep living. You value the space to have your basic needs met. You want compassion and understanding while your life is consumed by these very basic tasks — they feel so heavy, each one a weight around your wrists, ankles, neck. You’ve come to expect the weight. It has become normal.
Everything is harder. Everything takes more effort than it should. And it doesn’t seem fair. You want a life of ease, but you know better than to expect it. You value every time someone is able to lift a bit of weight off of you.
I wish I could explain how different it is to be in this space — to live with a mental illness. You don’t expect to measure up to the “normal” people around you. You know you’re different. You know that you need to take two extra steps for every one step a normal person takes. You’ve come to expect to be outpaced. You want someone to come along and take you by the arm and help you move along a little faster; and you value every time someone does.
You value friendship, you need community, but you don’t expect it to come automatically. You’ve been difficult to deal with, and you know that you’ve pushed people away — people that could have helped you when you needed it. Your group of friends is small — a core group that really understands. You only have room for the people who get it. But, sometimes, it feels too small. Sometimes, you feel lonely. Sometimes you want the whole world to be able to see your struggles, to acknowledge them; to really see you and love you anyway. But, you’ve come to expect that feeling of invisibility. Sometimes you feel so invisible…you feel like you could disappear and no one would notice.
And, other times you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb. Sometimes you feel so transparent that it seems as if everyone has x-ray vision eyes and can see right through to your soul. They can see all of your weaknesses. They know your secrets. And, so you value those times of solace, where you cannot be seen by anyone except yourself. You crave those moments of introversion where you can dissolve into something else, and focus on something other than “you” for awhile.
You want to hide and you want to be seen.
You want to care for yourself and you want to be cared for.
You want the weight to be lifted and still, for some reason, you don’t always let it.
You see the world differently, and you’ve come to value that. You’ve come to expect it. You’ve come to accept it. And, maybe, that's okay.
And now, for the song of the week, one of my favorite songs of all time...