Content Warning – mental illness, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, suicide ideations, gun violence.
You made a comment a few days ago that demonstrated just how ignorant and misinformed you are on the subject of mental health. Especially those who qualify as mentally ill or ‘seriously mentally ill’ as you so generously referred to the racist, violent, homegrown terrorists who murdered dozens of people in minutes in Ohio and Texas. I (don’t) hate to let you down, but these people are not mentally ill. They are terrorists, hate mongers, and violent men and your willingness to label them as mentally ill shows how clear it is to those with how actual mental illnesses how ill-informed you are about what it is we do with our lives so I figured I should tell you. Here’s a peak into the life of someone who has lived with obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, and generalized anxiety disorder for five years.
Mentally ill people take 30 second showers, if they can manage the courage to take a shower, because they can’t be alone with their thoughts for more than that. Mentally ill people lay awake at night, heart racing, brain shut down, frightened this is the moment they will finally lose it. Mentally ill people run to the bathroom minutes after eating breakfast, lunch, dinner (any consumption of food really), to have explosive diarrhea (there’s not eloquent way to put it) because their stomach is so twisted, food cannot be properly digested. Mentally ill people cannot get out of bed on somedays, their limbs are too heavy, their brain won’t let them move or sometimes, under the blanket is the only place they feel safe. So on those days, mentally ill people lay in bed, not wanting to die, but wanting to disappear, vanish into thin air because to live inside their own head for one more minute is unfathomable. On those days, and other days where everything appears normal to the common eye, mentally ill people think about hurting themselves more than would ever think of hurting another person.
But you know what – sometimes mentally ill people do think about hurting other people. Don’t understand this as thinking, pondering, rolling over thoughts of murder in the brain. It’s fear. It’s one thought that got stuck in the brain that, because of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, can’t get out. Sometimes the thought shows up when you’re spreading cream cheese on a bagel. You see you’re holding a knife and a thought appears – ‘what if you stabbed yourself? What if you stabbed someone else with this knife?’ Do we do that? Of course not. We throw the knife into the sink and refuse to touch or even look at any sharp object until our fears shift.
Until we’re driving our brother to the store to get some chicken to make for dinner and a thought pops into our head ‘what if I run the car off the road and kill us?’. Do we do that? Of course not, we signal that we’re pulling over, jump out of the car, demand our brother drive the rest of the way, and refuse to touch car keys until our fears shift. Until we’re sitting on the couch watching some movie with our dad and someone punches another person in the movie and that thought appears ‘you will punch your dad’. Do we do that? I’m sure you know it’s a no by now. Instead, we run to our room, lock the door, barricade ourselves in, sit on the floor, heart racing, thoughts screaming, I AM A GOOD PERSON. It stays like that for a while.
Until your sister comes into the room to get ready for bed. You’re on vacation so you have to share a bed with her and when she asks you to turn the light off so she can sleep, you stop short. You have a thought ‘what if you wake up in the middle of the night because you’ve lost your mind and you start to strangle your sister?’ You turn the light off but you leave the room, make a cup of coffee, and resolve not to sleep because what if that thought becomes true. You pick up a book by the Dalai Lama and think about love. Read his words about kindness. Remember God and go through the past twenty years of your life, reminding yourself of all the good you have done for this world, for the people you love, the space you have made in your heart for others. But sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes that stereotype of that dangerous mentally ill person wins.
What if that’s really what a mentally ill person does? What if we really are violent? Because according to the lies OCD spews at me and the rhetoric you spout from your fingers each day, that’s what I, as a mentally ill person should be doing. Yet unlike the homegrown terrorists who obliterate the lives of others in under a minute, I have a grasp of what is right and what is wrong. What is good and what is bad. Because I am so damn afraid of doing wrong, of causing harm, burdening the world.
I am not the person you need to reform. Mentally ill people are not the ones you are looking for. The ones who you should be pointing your fingers at. Mentally ill people already get annihilated by our own thoughts claiming we are terrible people. We don’t need someone with no knowledge of existing in a brain like ours to do that as well.
You want someone to blame? Look in the mirror – you’ll see yourself and the people behind you, who supported you, lifted you up, and put you where you are now. And maybe, even take a page out of a mentally ill person’s book – spend every minute of every day, questioning your morals, your actions, your thoughts, ruminating, analyzing, obsessing, all because you want to cause as little as harm possible in this delicate world. Start there. Fix yourself.