Day 98 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.
There are millions of word in print about how to interact with individuals who are mentally ill. Shoulds and should nots. Cautions and guidelines. The challenge with reading and reacting to these bumpers on the bowling lane is that it has the possibility of being a barrier to real relationship rather than open an avenue to good communication.
When we look at individuals of any stripe or category through a predefined lens we instinctively react. A lens of racial diversity brings expectations of a certain kind of cultural behavior or acceptable speech patterns. A visible disability brings out an instinct to assist along with the assumption the disabled person is weaker than others and needs or wants our help. When mental illness comes on the scene it can be easy to assume that one of the conversants is less capable of healthy interaction than the other. This is as incorrect as deciding all black people speak ghetto ebonics, latinos are all from Mexico, all veterans have PTSD or physically handicapped people need help opening doors or reaching shelves.
I get caught two ways on this. Because I am so high functioning in my illness I have been able to mask it, even from myself. I can isolate without people knowing because my online presence is alive and bright. I can hold wonderful encouraging conversations with people while in my pajamas, having stayed in bed half the day. I am able to teach and consult without having actually slept for days on end. I don’t appear ill when I actually am, but I want to be treated with understanding.
Do me a favor. Don’t pre-treat our conversations with your pity or laymen’s understanding of my diagnosis. Enter into the dance I have been choreographed in with investigative curiosity. If we are to have a real relationship you cannot sit on the sidelines and merely observe. For my sake and for the sake of others lets have the courtesy to explore the potential, capabilities and wishes of one another before we presume to know who they really are.