Being in the throes of mental illness is horrible. Recovery, however brief, feels like breaking through the surface of a frozen river. You are no longer drowning. You are no longer being pulled away from yourself. You can breath.
It is a miraculous thing to recover from a mental illness. Yet, very few people are aware of this miracle, and even fewer understand the courage, stamina and belief in oneself necessary to pull it off. Mostly, people are just relieved that we’ve stopped acting like someone else and started being ourselves again. Mostly, people want to wrap up the “sick” part of our lives in a box with a neat, little bow and put the box way back on a shelf where no one will ever see it again.
The problem with this charade is that the “sick” part of our lives was our lives. We were never acting like someone else. That was us. That is us. At best, we will only every be recovering. We will never not be ill.
For a friend or a loved one to deny this fundamental truth about our identity is to reject us as a whole. You cannot love parts of a person. You cannot pick and choose. You either love someone entirely or you do not love them at all.
If you choose to love somebody recovering from a mental illness, please do not seem unaware of our heroism. Do not treat us as if we are or were just mentally ill. Recognize that we have fought for our lives, just as people with any number of other illnesses do.
Personally, I am not asking for a parade, a party or even a card. I am asking to be accepted as I am, both well and unwell. I am asking for recognition of my struggle and my victory, however fleeting or long-lasting it might be.