Dear everyone who has ever made me feel like I was crazy,
I know that most of you won’t read this letter (okay, probably none of you will read this letter), but I don’t care—this letter is more for me than for you. If you are reading, you might be reassuring yourselves, “She’s not talking to me… I think.” So let me clarify: when I say you made me feel like I was crazy, it means you said things or did things that made me feel judged or ostracized because of my mental illness or the symptoms I exhibit because of it.
There’s been no shortage of you over the years. Some of you have been close family and friends, some of you have been distant relatives, some of you have been acquaintances, some of you have been strangers, and one of you is me. But regardless of my relation to you, every time one of you has done this to me, I am at a loss for words. I am never able to say how this makes me feel in the moment, either because I am too upset to put my thoughts into words or because I simply don’t know how I feel in that moment. Hence why I am writing this letter—a chance to say all the things I never got to say.
To the high school friends who never had much compassion for how different I was, or who never believed in mental illness in general:
You always made me feel judged. You always made me feel like I didn’t belong. Your exclusion of me hurt—I would be lying if I said it didn’t still hurt to this day. However, now that I’ve gone to college and lived as an adult, I can see how close-minded you are. You never experienced or learned anything beyond what you already knew in high school, and for that I feel sorry for you. I only hope that you will choose to see more than your small view of the world one day. Maybe I will even be the one to get through to you.
To the many friends/acquaintances over the years who thought that I just needed to be more positive or that I was just being dramatic:
Saying those things doesn’t magically solve my mental illness or make me better. Sometimes I don’t have the ability to control my moods, emotions, or impulses, and when you say I just need to think positively or calm down, it just reminds me of the things I don’t always have the power to do. It makes me feel bad about myself for having a mental illness. You are adding to the stigma around mental illness by promoting an assumption that a person’s mood is based on their way of thinking. Some of us need more than an inspirational quote on Instagram to feel better.
To my relatives who talked about me behind my back and said horrible things about me:
Honestly, I would like to say that I forgive you, but I don’t. You have chosen the side of small-mindedness and ignorance and prejudice, and I can’t forgive that. I don’t understand your utter lack of compassion, understanding, or acceptance of anyone who is not like you. Please, for the sake of your loved ones, and for the sake of people in general, attempt to see how harmful your hate is. I am not embarrassed or ashamed of who I am—can you say the same?
To the strangers who made me feel exponentially worse during my public meltdown:
I understand that my uncontrollable sobbing, hyperventilating, and falling to the ground was probably scary to witness in a public setting. I understand that you don’t know me and you have no idea if I’m dangerous or a threat, which puts you under no obligation to help me if you are afraid for your safety. I understand that you might not have known what to do in that situation. What I don’t understand is why one of you would audibly say, “What the fuck is wrong with her?” or “Jesus, calm down, lady.” What I don’t understand is why one of you felt inclined to try and take a video. I fear for anyone who may not always be able to keep it together in public places due to a mental illness. My experience proves that we have more to fear than you do.
To my close friends/family who had the best intentions:
I am grateful for all of you, and I am grateful for your support. I know that none of you ever meant to hurt me on purpose, which is why I am not angry with you. I am angry at a society that teaches people to discriminate against those with mental illnesses. These teachings may not be outright or defined, but they are there. They are everywhere: they are there in the negative depictions of mental illness in the media; they are there in our choice of words; they are there in what we believe is acceptable and what is not. It will take time before our culture has enough momentum to shift away from ignorance and stigma towards understanding and acceptance, which is why I don’t blame you for your slip-ups. I know that you will do your best to inform yourselves for my sake.
To me, who always assigns blame:
Whether you are beating yourself up for not being happy/stable/good enough or blaming the world for your problems, you need to chill. You are always assigning blame for your mental illness. It’s not your fault that you have a mental illness. It’s also not anyone else’s. Your mental illness, although difficult, is not a punishment or a consequence. It’s a part of life and you need to actually start dealing with it. I know you can do it, because I am you, and we can do anything.