Writing about mental health struggles isn’t easy. If you’re doing it for any kind of audience, be prepared for an onslaught of criticism. While 1 in 4 Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, it remains largely misunderstood by the general populace. Reactions are rarely positive, and while you may receive the occasional message from someone praising you for your bravery and thanking you for inspiring them to deal with theirs, the overall reaction is pretty unpleasant.
Here are some examples of the kinds of things people say and do when you write about your struggles with your mental health:
1. Downplay your feelings.
Most people can’t deal with their emotions in a healthy way. Instead, they find other outlets for them. When people see someone actively and openly fighting their mental illness, it makes them uncomfortable. They don’t want to admit that there might be something wrong with them too. That’s why they will make every effort under the sun to downplay your feelings. Why can’t you just get over it already? Something bad happened to them once and they got over it! You know, by bottling it up deep inside and drowning it in alcohol. That’s the healthy solution! Therapy is for weak people who make excuses for themselves. This brings me to…
2. Say that you’re just being lazy, imagining it, and/or making excuses not to work.
As previously stated, mental illness is vastly misunderstood. Most people just don’t take the time to sit down and read the DSM. They aren’t interested in learning how brain chemistry works and how it contributes to difficulties functioning. It’s much easier for the average person to lump people into categories, such as “lazy,” “delusional,” and “liars.” Again, this is most likely because they are struggling with something deep down and don’t want anybody to know about it. It’s much easier to put on a “strong” front than actually deal with your issues.
3. Accuse you of lying and/or making things up for attention.
If you’re writing about the emotional fallout you suffered from assault, rape, bullying, and other forms of abuse, people will bend over backwards to defend your abuser. They will come up with any and every reason to call you a liar. After all, what kind of attention is better than everyone you know turning against you because that guy you thought was so nice decided to get wasted one night and force you into doing degrading sexual acts in your own bed?
Did you have to go to court to get a restraining order against a guy who threw you into a wall? You’re obviously just making that up too! Don’t even waste your time showing them the physical evidence. These people don’t care. They are uncomfortable with the fact that they personally know someone who committed an assault. They would rather see the accuser burn at the stake. Why is this? I don’t know. The short answer is that most people are just plain assholes.
4. Retaliate against you.
If you’re writing about your abuser, get ready for the flying monkeys to come after you in response. The worst thing you can do to a narcissist and/or abuser is call them out publicly. They cannot stand being told they are anything but perfect. Should someone point out that they are, in fact, a jerk who hurts other people for fun, they WILL retaliate against you. They will destroy your reputation, turn your friends and family members against you, jeopardize your employment, and even run you out of your home.
Sure, it’s scary now, but all they’re really doing is proving you right. You may feel the need to apologize in order to mend things, but it’s already too late. Abusers get off on abusing people. They want to see you hurt. They will do anything and everything in their power to manipulate those around them into hurting you. There’s nothing you can do. It’s just how they roll.
Your only option is to escape and cut them out of your life forever. It may seem difficult at first, especially if said abuser is a family member hellbent on isolating you from your blood, but it really is the best option in the end. Don’t worry, eventually the people around you will see how unhinged they really are. If not, hey! At least you finally got away!
5. Call you crazy and/or toxic.
This one is a classic. Mental illness comes in many forms. It can range from mood disorders such as depression to full-blown, degenerative diseases like schizophrenia. The spectrum is incredibly wide and diverse. Unfortunately, people who don’t understand mental illness also don’t understand this spectrum. It’s much easier to lump everyone into the “crazy” category. This is so things are simpler to process. Why take the time to listen to someone who is struggling when you can just slap a label on them and move on? Exactly.
Struggling with mental health issues is hard. Don’t make it harder by wasting your time worrying about what other people think. Abusers are going to abuse, people are going to use labels, and haters are going to run their mouths. Don’t take it personally. It has nothing to do with you. You are the one who is brave for standing up for yourself and fighting back against your illness. Your journey is an inspiration to others who struggle just like you. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll inspire the people who hurt you to face their own issues too.