….And I don’t have a big red S on my chest!
It sounds silly doesn’t it? And certainly (as the above graphic proves) we can make light of it all. But it really can be a serious issue especially when it comes to mental illness.
I think one of the problems stems from how we see ourselves. It is something that I was reflecting on after having read numerous posts over the past few months in which folk were experiencing some negativity and feelings of failure as a result of the limitations that their mental health has placed on them. No longer being able to do what they used to be able to do each and every time they need or want to do so. And certainly I am guilty of the same kind of reactions.
But that is the reality of it all isn’t it? I can no longer always so readily or so easily do the the things I used to do because in truth I am no longer the person I used to be.
At my heart, my core, I am of course still that person but now I am that person with Mental Health issues. And I need to recognize and more importantly accept myself as that. Because if I see myself as anything different am I not deluding myself and setting myself up for failure and feelings of inadequacy?
Additionally if I accept myself for who I am I can then also have a tangible and realistic goal – that of getting better or managing my illness to the best of my ability.
So the question is this.
Do I see myself as a perfectly well person who periodically experiences episodes of illness which in turn debilitate me – sometimes causing me to under-achieve and to fail to do the things I want to do?
Do I see myself as someone who unfortunately has serious mental health issues but who despite these is doing my best to manage my condition and who is sometimes able to achieve the things and do the things I want to do despite that illness(s)?
What I am talking about here is of course perspective.
I think many of us who do suffer from poor mental health will, at one time or another, felt unjustly judged or criticized by someone as a result of their not fully understanding, recognizing or taking into account the limitations and effect our mental health places upon us. BUT aren’t we also guilty of doing the same thing to ourselves?
“I am my own worst enemy” or “I am my own worst critic” are phrases that are often heard and the reason they are often heard is because they carry a truth that is applicable to so many of us.
The truth is that I do not wear my underpants on the outside, I do not have a big red ‘S’ on my chest and I am not superhuman! I am as normal as the next person but my ‘normality’ is often affected by serious challenges and restrictions that many folk thankfully don’t experience.
And accepting myself as such is not defeatism it is realism!
Defeatism would be accepting the reality of those limitations and effects of my mental illness, not recognizing the benefits of it (and yes there can be some), and doing nothing in order to live the quality of life I and everyone else has a fundamental human right to live.
That is not what I do and that is not what I am going to do.
So next time you see me coming down hard of myself as a result of my not being able to do something because of my mental health you have my permission to remind me that “I don’t wear my underpants on the outside.” All I ask in return is that the next time you come down hard on yourself as a result of the same thing you remind yourself of that truth also.
And if you ever do see me physically wearing my underpants on the outside, just smile sweetly, put your arm around me and lead me gently to a place of safety