This week my husband has done an incredible job of supporting me. I know it’s not easy living with someone who is mentally ill. And I’ll always feel guilt over the fact that I didn’t “come out” as mentally ill before we were married. I didn’t intentionally deceive him. I just thought I could manage it by keeping it secret. But, that is no way to live.
Living openly with a mental illness is hard. Living secretly with a mental illness is harder.
The ability to claim one’s self as mentally ill is something that the individual has to do when they are ready. When I was in therapy, when I first got diagnosed with anorexia, my therapist made me say over and over, “I am anorexic.” That was supposed to help me accept the diagnosis. But of course it didn’t work. I needed to come to that realization on my own. I’ve been aware that I was mentally ill for over ten years, but I’ve only been “out” for less than two.
You cannot rush this process.
You have to be confident enough in your worth, strong enough to be able to gracefully respond to people’s ignorance, and determined enough to pursue a healthy life.
If you aren’t there yet, be patient with yourself, you’ll get there. Like I said, it took me nearly a decade to reach this place for myself. And, if I had forced it to happen sooner, I know that I would be in a much darker, dangerous place than I am today.
The other thing you can’t rush is how loved ones react to your mental illness. You have to be patient. And this is something I am reminded of day after day. This week, as mentioned, my husband has been amazingly thoughtful concerning my mental state. This has been a gradual process, building upon years of patience, forgiveness, and honest, sometimes tear-filled, conversations.
It’s important to note too that the things he did this week were not huge acts, but little gestures that showed a great kindness and consideration of my well-being.
I felt heard.
And on a week when I had a doctor visit and made the decision to up my meds (and our cat Loki started Prozac, kind of humorous, but true), this support meant so, so much.
So, be patient with yourself and the people in your life. This is essential to ongoing recovery.
If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.