We walk into a situation. Any situation. A room at a party; an adjacent seat at a dinner table; a group training exercise.
I turn to you and say, “Hello, I have mental illness.”
How would you respond?
If I were as open with this fact as you might be if you had had a particularly bad migraine, or case of food poisoning, or common cold, how would you respond to me?
I wonder whether you would sympathise, and ask me how I was; or whether instead you would clam up, stutter a little, and look up and down and around and anywhere else rather than straight into my eyes.
I wonder how hard you would try and meet me in the middle; or whether this would be beyond you.
Do you know that I am always aware of your discomfort?
I am always aware of your unease regarding the nature of my mind. I adjust myself accordingly and smile a lot, make self deprecating jokes, overly enthusiastic replies and noises; all things designed to fill the space between your uncertainty, and my malevolent “condition.”
I work continuously and consistently to decrease your unease, to minimise your discomfort, to mitigate your lack of empathetic ability and scope..
Because I’m sure that you do try- you try as hard as you can, or as hard as you want to, or whatever. Or maybe you don’t because I always make myself so easy to be around; I make myself as non-threatening, non imposing as possible. So as not to rock the boat, so as not to cause strife or heart ache, so as not to cause unease or displeasure.
But in the process I’ve been rocked, I’ve taken on all of your issues, and all of your discomfort, and all of your uncertainty, guilt, pain, anger, regret, and bunched it all up inside of me because I knew that you never deserved it, you never asked for it or directly created the conditions which nurtured it.
I did. I know that- I created the situation, I created the condition.
So I have accepted the repercussions.
But I wonder if you can ever comprehend how much it hurts, when that look comes into your eyes, when you are confronted by my madness, by my abnormality, by my strangeness; and you look at me like I’m some strange many-legged bug you’ve found crawling across your kitchen floor.
Something you have to engage with; something your have to pick up and hold very gingerly between thumb and forefinger, and dispose of somewhere far away in the dirt and the grass.
The look in your eyes in that moment always says everything I know and don’t want to. Everything which makes the vice grip tighter, and the abyss scream back at me all the more furiously.
But.. that’s just the way it is right? Just the way the chips fell. I accept this; everyday i accept this and try to make the best of it.
“Hello, I have a mental illness..
..I hope i don’t make you feel too uncomfortable..”