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You Can’t Expect People To Understand

For the 9 millionth time, being mentally ill can be very hard. I am trudging through this shit called rapid cycling bipolar 1 disorder, anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. I am often frustrated, have no patience, and get very mad – and at stupid stuff. Sigh. My anxiety stops me from being able to be in public spaces and my OCD makes me want to die when I have to socially shake hands at church or with new people I meet. I am so tired of this “shit.” (It usually isn’t SO bad, but episodes are to be expected with bipolar disorder).

That being said, I have absolutely no right to expect people to understand how I feel. I cannot expect my mom, who does not live with bipolar disorder, to understand what it feels like to live a day of a dozen major mood shifts. I just can’t. I can explain. I can write here for her and for you and for people you know (and that is why I do) what it is like to live in the extremes of this illness, but it is unfair of me to expect someone who does not share my illness (or one like it) to completely understand.

If you have never stood on the shore and looked at the ocean, you don’t know what that feels like. If you have never flown on an airplane, you don’t know the sensation of take-off or ascension.

Mental illness = same thing.

It must be experiences to be understood. Don’t get me wrong, people can be there for you. They can try to put themselves in your place. They can read about your illness. Attend NAMI meetings. But when you are laying in your bed, unbathed for days, cell phone battery dead, thinking of the easiest ways to die – that, dear reader, can be hard for them to comprehend. Because, after all, “You have so much to live for,” “Nothing’s that bad,” etc.

The laws of nature state┬áthat you should do everything in your power to live, to self-preserve. Fight or flight. But some of us who are mentally ill don’t always follow that law. That makes no sense to those untouched by mental illness.

Maybe I am rambling, if so, forgive me. The point I am trying to make is please┬ádon’t expect too much from people who just honestly can’t understand. Give them a break and let them be there for you the best way they know how and let your mental health providers pick-up where your friends and loved ones leave off.


You Can’t Expect People To Understand

Elaina J. Martin

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APA Reference
Martin, E. (2016). You Can’t Expect People To Understand. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 4 Sep 2016
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