About a year ago, I lost touch with a very close friend. Well that may be putting it lightly, the friend essentially disappeared, but with good reason. We were both in very bad places psychologically, and neither of us could do any good for each other. Fortunately for both of us, the other person could recognize the issue while I couldn’t; this is why they had to disappear. Anyway, my point is not to debate the actions of one person, but to examine the true meaning behind the need for separation.
As I’ve come to see it, dealing with anyone who has a mental illness can be quite difficult, but the truth of it is that you can’t truly understand it without being afflicted yourself. Ok, you may say “that’s a given,” but I doubt many people can grasp the gravity of the situation. This fundamental lack of understanding leaves me with a permanent disconnect from the majority perspective. People may as well be expected to learn how to juggle with eels if they are expected to be able to understand all the nuances of my affliction or others.
This isn’t an excuse for people to get away with being ignorant of mental illness and alternate perspectives, but it is a mechanism to deal with the eventual reality that many of us face involving the temporary absence of friends and/or family members. It’s also something to consider when you inevitably face a situation of conflict based in the misunderstanding of your condition.
For example, I have a very difficult time predicting when I will be fit for social engagements. It’s one of the touchiest subjects with me, because my mood is so volatile (most of the time) that I will not know if I can participate in some activity until the day of (or sometimes hour of) the endeavor. As often as this becomes an issue, and as much as I explain it, I have found that virtually no one could come to understand my perspective.
I am now willing to accept this issue of misunderstanding and deal with problems as they arise, but I have recently had an experience that has given me hope. My girlfriend and I were supposed to attend a Halloween related event this past weekend. She is a huge fan of the day and the activity, so we both really wanted me to be there. I was all for it, but when the day finally came, I felt too unbalanced to participate. In every other situation I would have been facing a fight, or at least some disappointment.
However, this time it was not the case, as my amazing girlfriend smiled sincerely and told me she understood! This was coming from someone who is not mentally afflicted, and while I doubt she meant it literally (she couldn’t have) I know for a fact that she understood it on the level that mattered. She knew it would hurt, and she wasn’t about to force me into a painful situation. So there you have it, there is hope for comprehension after all, but I’ll warn you now that she’s one in a million.
Good vibes and much love,
Photo by Sadie Hernandez, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
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Last reviewed: 4 Oct 2011