I’m still the same person I’ve always been, I just also happen to be ill as well. I can still laugh and I can still make jokes. I can still talk about things other than my mental health.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a fine line between treating the person with mental health problems the same as you always have, and rightfully acknowledging that their illness exists. It is hard to get the balance right. Either people treat you completely as normal and ignore any problems, or they treat you like a completely different person who is only defined by their mental health. Either way, not good.
What I’ve found is that when people do acknowledge you mental illness, or when you do finally get up the courage to be open and honest to people about it, all you get is pity. It’s so frustrating. Yes, some kind words are important, but please do not be weird and awkward around me oozing pity. I don’t need it and I don’t want it, I’m still the person you knew before.
This pity makes people surprised or awkward when I smile or make jokes. DEPRESSED PEOPLE CAN FEEL HAPPINESS, or at least, we can still pretend to. When people act like this, it makes you feel like you’ve lost a sense of yourself. My depression is just a part of me, not all of it, so when you act weird when I am anything but my illness, it makes me feel like that is all there is.
Pity also implies that you think you’re better than me or above me. Just because I’m ill does not mean that I’m worthless. You are not better than me because you’re not sick, and I really don’t need to be pitied. It just pisses me off. Yes, I would prefer not to have depression or anxiety but I do, and I can still have a life and be happy with it, it’s just a part of it all now.
I understand this comes from a place where I’m starting to make some progress in managing my illnesses. And there have been, and still will be, times where I’ll lose hope. But right now, you can keep your pity because I’m going to do my life in my own way, and be happy in my own way, in spite of my mental health problems.
So yes, don’t ignore it completely, but also do not treat me like my mental health problems are all there is to me anymore. I am still me, and I really need to hold on to that.