Thanks facebook, I Forget I’m Mentally Ill
I don’t want to be dripping with warm inspiration porn feels. I don’t want anyone to pull the “look how much better he’s doing now, he hasn’t tried to kill himself in years” bullshit. I don’t want anyone who doesn’t deal with mental illness to find neat ways that my (or anyone else’s) history parallels their struggles. However, thanks to facebook memories I see this kind of stuff all the time and I think it’s worth mentioning.
For me, it’s embarrassing.
It shouldn’t be because I’m supposed to be able to use my personal experiences to help uplift people and help fight stigma surrounding mental illness. It shouldn’t be embarrassing because I’m supposed to know that that stigma is just a cultural reminder that sick people don’t make babies or money often enough and are seen as less valuable. Or, I’m not supposed to be embarrassed because I should have autonomy and ownership of my life and my experiences and should know that without those experiences I wouldn’t be whoever I am now. I’m not supposed to be embarrassed because there frankly are so many people with mental illnesses and if we just talked about it more we might realize how common it is and maybe it wouldn’t be so dangerous. It shouldn’t be embarrassing because I should’ve written a heart wrenching book or movie and should be rolling in middle american “experience pain through me and feel fortunate in the privilege that you’ll never have to deal with this” money. I shouldn’t feel embarrassed because no one I have ever met has ever actually gone out of their way to be intentionally shitty about mental illness. I shouldn’t be embarrassed because people are generally pretty nice and compassionate and understanding.
But when a memory like this pops up I am embarrassed. I know that all of these reasons I shouldn’t be embarrassed are capital ‘T’ fucking True. I know all of this, I refuse to let anyone shame me about it and will publicly be hesitant to admit feeling anything other than fiercely proud of who I am and what progress I’ve made. But none of this is what I think when I see these memories.
When I see this memory the first thing that comes to my mind is being pathetically drunk in a PetsMart in the middle of the afternoon buying hundreds of dollars of supplies for pets I could barely remember to feed. I remember stealing silverware from a restaurant and carefully placing it on the bumpers of parked cars. I remember my friends having to corral and cajole me from place to place and making sure that I wasn’t falling over or disappearing. I remember being so fleetingly in touch with reality that just wanting to tell everyone goodbye in what might or might not have been a suicide note on facebook seemed affectionate and endearing to me rather than alarming and terrifying to my loved ones. I remember it taking one of my best friends basically leading me by the hand to the safety of a hospital for me to recognize there was a problem.
I remember being a burden. I remember eschewing so fully my responsibility to keep myself healthy that it became someone else’s job to make sure that I was alive.
I also inevitably remember that other mentally ill people probably feel like they’ve embarrassed themselves too. I remember that we’ve all probably felt like burdens. I remember that there are so many of us who share this experience. I remember that our value is not based on how traditionally productive we can be or how we are furthering our species. I remember that we have inherent value. I remember that we are autonomous. We do own our stories! We are living culminations of our experiences! I remember that me getting better, that anyone choosing to get better, isn’t done to inspire anyone. It isn’t meant to serve as an example of how people can overcome adversity. Choosing to be healthy is simply recognizing that even mentally ill people deserve to live a good, meaningful life.
If embarrassment is the price of being healthy, alive and full of shitty memories I’ll take it.