Posted on 3 September 2016 by Michael Dahl

Honesty: It’s not always easy.

Sometimes I fear I say and write too much.

It is possible there are people who use the perceived “weaknesses” of mental illnesses against and over me. I also know there are people who use those same perceived weaknesses to feel an improper pity for me. In addition, some people would rather I just shut up or lie; and when they ask “How are you doing?” they’d like me to just give the same answers many offer as niceties. Lastly, I know that some people neglect talking with me about certain things for fear that I won’t be able to handle it.

Thankfully, for me, I know that having, dealing with, and trying to reign in some parts of my illnesses are not weaknesses. It takes incredible strength to engage in some “normal” parts of life at times. And, I am proud of myself for confronting people for not including me in some difficult conversations because they don’t know where “dealing with Michael” will lead.

Can I get a “Bravo,” “Amen,” or even a “Dang, things can suck sometimes.”

Honestly, though, I don’t have to deal with the stigma attached to mental illness nearly as much as many do. Many suffer greater ailments than I, so I’m guessing proportion plays a role. Also, since I’ve been open with my struggle for well over a dozen years — and have been writing about it for a handful of those years — many friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances get the “real” me.

So why am I writing this post?

Well, quite honestly, one brief exchange a few weeks back stung pretty hard … more than it normally would. (Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, I am NOT talking about the day I had the public panic attack.)

I was honest — although not overbearingly so — when someone casually asked how I was doing. And it was in a public setting. I said no more than five or six honest words. The words didn’t require anyone say or do anything for me. I was just being honest that I was having a tough day, and it had to do with the juices swarming around in my head.

I’m not going to repeat the person’s response.  It wasn’t incredibly hurtful … just pretty insensitive. While they may not have meant to do so, I kinda felt “put in my place.” I also felt bad because neither I nor anyone else said anything about it.

Those brief few seconds have stuck with me ever since. In fact, it feels like I’ve afforded that instance much more than it’s worth. Perhaps if the juices swarming in my head hand’t been quite so painful that day, I would just be able to let it go.

But really that’s not why I am writing this post.

Again, I’m comfortable with what I do (except for then) to fight the stigma.

I am writing this post for two reasons. First, if you witness a “put down,” let it be known that that is not okay. Do so in proportion to the situation … in a way that you feel honestly fits the situation at hand while not forcing discomfort on the person dealing with their illness.

Second, be sensitive to the words you say. Do not say you are “OCD” if you simply like to keep things tidy. Similarly, if you are of “two minds” regarding a particular situation, don’t claim you are “bi-polar.” And I must admit, I’ve used the word “schizophrenic” inappropriately and felt quite bad about it. Unfortunately, I didn’t call myself on it. Nor did anyone else.

Okay, actually I am writing this post for a third reason too. I am surprised at how I’ve let those brief few seconds stick with me. I’ll be alright. But it strikes me that for those who are in worse situations or suffer more than I, the stigma must be quite overpowering.

Be kind to one another, everyone. Be kind.