I remember shaming mental illness. This was long ago before any of this applied to me. I used to think that depression was something that you just got over. “Why were people always sad?” I thought. “Just get over it,” were my other thoughts. No one ever educated me on mental illness. I got educated on sex and history and street language, but never mental illness. I thought that people who were crazy looked crazy and had drool coming from their mouths. I thought that they would stare into space for long periods of time never saying a word. When they did decide to speak it didn’t make sense or they would yell and scream; this is how little I knew.
A few years ago my aunt had a mental breakdown. No one in my family ever talked about it. I never knew why it happened. I remember her not being herself and eventually she came around to talking. I stayed away from her thinking that what she had was contagious. I thought of her as less than because I didn’t act like that. I can’t even blame it on the fact that I was younger because I carried those thoughts to later years.
I understood my aunt once I got diagnosed myself. She wasn’t less than or some psycho. She was hurt and needed someone and didn’t have support and had a breakdown. If I ever decide to talk to her about it, I know now I would be more compassionate and understanding because I too am going through something mentally.
Sometimes things have to happen to you for you to understand what others are going through. I have the best example. My mom’s car started acting crazy a few years ago. The breaks would make this crazy sound and she would have to turn the car off and reset the emergency breaks. The first time this happened she was alone and very scared. She told my dad and he told her there was nothing he could do. She took the car to be checked out and the mechanics said everything was fine. She called it her Jesus car (I loved the name.)
When my family went to the coast for vacation my dad drove my mom’s car. As he was driving down the highway, the car began to do its crazy thing. My dad was horrified. He had brushed my mom off before, but once it happened to him, he understood. My mom was so happy that happened to him; soon afterward my mom got a new car.
I’m not saying pray for bad things to happen to people who you want to understand you. I’m also not saying something bad is going to happen to you. I’m just saying that sometimes you have to be in someone else’s shoes to understand them. You should never judge a person just because you are not going through what they are going through.