How Can I Explain My Mental Illness to Those Closest to Me?
Having to explain to anyone that you have mental illness can be a tough conversation to have. So, when you must sit down with those closest to you and explain it, the conversation can take on a whole new level of difficulty. It can be hard for the people who are closest to us to recognize mental illness when most of them would say that they have a pretty good understanding of who we are, and I am positive that there is a lot of truth to that. What the people closest to us are unable to recognize so easily are the signs of mental illness that we became good at hiding from others. Sometimes, those signs were also the same signs that we tried to hide from ourselves while we lived in denial of our mental illness. Although the topic may cause discomfort, discussing mental illness is a conversation that needs to be had, and one that we should be able to feel comfortable having.
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Why are we not talking about this more?
Discussing mental illness can cause those affected by it to feel a great sense of shame when having to own up, acknowledge, and address the figurative elephant in the room. It’s because of this shame that mental illnesses in many people will go undiagnosed and ignored for many years. When someone chooses to ignore the state of their mental health, they will find their own means of coping with their life. It is also possible for someone to be suffering with mental illness and not have the tools, education, or self-awareness to even recognize that it is, in fact, an illness. This is a perfect example of why we need to talk about mental health much more than we are. If we are not even willing to have the conversation, how are those who are suffering supposed to ever learn that their suffering has a name, a diagnosis, and most importantly, a solution? There is far too much suffering going on in this world that does not need to be occurring and could, quite frankly, be treated. Through discussing mental illness, and by sharing our experiences, we can all come to a certain level of understanding with each other. Regardless of if you have mental illness or not, discussing mental health is a conversation worth having.
When is a good time to talk about it?
Honestly, I am not sure there is ever a perfect time for anything, especially when referring to a touchy subject like mental illnesses. Not all people are equipped well enough to handle having certain conversations, but with that said, you will learn rather quickly who you are able to trust talking to regarding a mental illness. Since I am being honest, it is likely that you will recognize that certain friendships or connections fade away once this information is revealed about yourself. I know that it may be easy to feel offended or hurt by that, but just know that someone else’s opinion of your mental illness has nothing to do with you, and so much more to do with the character of that person. It is always important for you to remember that your mental illness is just a piece of you, and it certainly does not define who you are. With that said, speak openly with the people that you trust, and those with good intentions will stick around despite your mental illness. Just because there may not be an ideal time to talk about it, there will be many moments where you find yourself with the right people, and you will be ready and willing to have the conversation worth having.
We do ourselves an injustice by staying quiet about what causes us suffering. By opening up and sharing some of the harder truths about who we are, we allow ourselves the opportunity to form and build new, stronger connections. By speaking up, we can inspire others to speak up as well, and over time we can make mental illness a regular topic instead of a stigmatized one. Remember, not all conversations are going to be comfortable, but that does not mean that they should be avoided.