I have mental illnesses.

As a matter of fact, I have a lot of mental illnesses. And I am not ashamed of any single one of them. I have accepted them. They are mine, and, in a way, I am theirs. They have shaped who I am, and developed parts of my personality, for better or for worse. And that is okay with me. I take medicine. I go to therapy. I’ve been hospitalized. Because when you’re sick, you take medicine and you go to the hospital. And now I’m better. It’s as simple as that.

To some people, however, not so much.

To some people, mental illnesses are evil. People with mental illnesses are school shooters, terrorists, or just plain criminals. In my experience, I have never met a single mentally ill person who has been any of the aforementioned. Yet, somehow we’ve developed this reputation.

There are some people out there, who may or may not have mental illnesses, who are trying to spread the message of mental illnesses. They paint an ideal picture; mentally ill people are just like everyone else. We’re normal, and we deserve to be treated like everyone else.

And because of this, I hate mental illness awareness.

Because we are not like everyone else. We are not normal. We cannot be treated like everyone else. This idealistic image “activists” are trying to spread gives neurotypical people unrealistic expectations of what it means to be mentally ill.

In no way, shape, or form, do I deserve special treatment. But I am far different than any person without mental illnesses. Social situations are difficult for me, and I have reactions some would consider extreme. I’m more sensitive; it’s not a personality flaw it’s a symptom. I cannot handle and manage things the way some people would. I have clinical breakdowns every now and again.

That’s not something I can change. That is just who I am, and who I always will be. No matter the improvements I make, I will always be like this.

A lot of people would want to erase this part of me. The search for respect has been blurred by normality. Expecting someone to be exactly the same as a neurotypical person is damaging to the progress they may have made.

People who struggle with mental illnesses make great strides every day. Sometimes waking up in the morning is hard. Sometimes it takes an extra effort to shower, to brush teeth. Sometimes it’s a lot more catastrophic; people might struggle with suicidal ideation or have an episode that could do damage to a relationship. But we push through. We get through every day and we grow stronger, despite what we may feel.

Neurotypical people do not struggle with these things the same way mentally ill people do. So when we are expected to be exactly the same, to act exactly the same, to think exactly the same, it invalidates all of the progress we have made.

Personally, I have struggled with this. I would go through a day most people would consider normal. I wake up, brush my teeth, take my medication, and eat breakfast. To me, that is a success. When I can go through with my scheduled routine, I am proud of myself and the progress I have made.

But people don’t understand this. They think my progress is trivial. What is a success to me is nothing to them. It is almost insulting.

In no means do I want to be praised for eating, but encouragement is important in the process of healing. Raising the expectations lowers encouragement. If I am exactly the same as someone without any mental illness, why do I need any support?

We need to normalize mental illness. That is a fact. People need to become comfortable with the idea that people’s brain chemicals are different and some people just need help. But we cannot normalize people with mental illnesses. Yes, we need to feel like accepted members of society. We should not be treated like dangerous criminals, but our needs have to be recognized.

Do not shame people with mental illnesses. Do not erase our identities.

Find a balance.