Why I Made Friends With My Mental Illness

Why I Made Friends With My Mental Illness

Leave the mental illness stigma to everyone else but yourself.
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I have made too much room in my life for those who do not and cannot understand anxiety. I could not allow myself to be another one.

My anxiety has controlled my life more so in the past three years than ever before. I have avoided friendships and ruined relationships because of my anxiety. My anxiety has told me how much of a failure and burden I am to others. My anxiety has made me put my school before friends and family. My anxiety looks at road bumps as mountains and rain storms as tornadoes. I say “my anxiety,” because anyone with anxiety, depression, or any other form of mental illness knows it is not you. It is something you struggle with, but it is not you.

Like anyone with a mental illness, I hated it. I felt like it was ruining my life. I was not wanting to hang out with people and if I did, I chose the most toxic people. I became best friends with someone who used everything I told her against me and I fell in love with a guy who made sure to remind me how much he hates me and my anxiety. I let people tell me, “it is all in your head.” I defined myself by my anxiety and that was the worst thing I could have ever done to myself.

But I let the toxic people go, I looked at myself and said, “you have anxiety but you are not your anxiety.” And the best thing I did was make a friend instead of an enemy out of my anxious thoughts and anxious mind.

When you think of your mental illness you need to look at it like a child. Why is it so scared? Why does it tell you, you are a failure? Why does it keep you away from people? Why does it question everything you do? Why is it so hard for you to be normal? Why is it so hard for you to stop thinking? Why does it keep you up at night? Why does it make problems out of nothing? Why does it stop you from making friends? How could it be so troubling that it causes others problems? Why does it make everything so difficult for you?

Do not shame your body or your mind for responding to your environment in the best way that it can. Do not shame yourself for listening to all the mean things anyone has ever said to you. It only knows as much as you allow it and the more you feed it, the worse it can get. To be a friend, you cannot deprive your mental illness from all that it is scared of.

I had to stop depriving my anxiety of social gatherings, saying stupid or weird things, or asking “too many” questions. I had to let go of someone I loved because they told me I was “too much” and constantly made me hate myself. I had to stop being friends with people who did not get it or would not try. I had to stop going back to comfort because I did not want to be alone. I had to stop forcing people who could not love me to love me because I was scared of not being loved. I had to stop making myself uncomfortable to make everyone around me comfortable. I had to stop sheltering my anxiety from all that it fears. As much as it helps, it cannot grow.

I had to love myself. I had to look my anxiety in the face and tell it that it no longer has any reason to hide or run away. I had to separate myself from my anxiety, but I had to start treating it with the same love I wanted others to give to me. So when I am breaking down in the middle of the night out of fear and worry, I no longer beat myself up for it. It is fine, it is what I need in the moment. My anxiety is worried but I am not, and everything will be fine.

Cover Image Credit: David Cohen

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

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Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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