Trust and Mental Illness rarely go hand in hand, in fact one might say they’re polar opposites. Of course, most people won’t say that directly to your face, but with the media portraying us as white mass shooters, bad politicians, and violent masterminds, or entirely incompetent individuals that rely on everyone else for everything, it’s easy to buy into the narrative and form this unconscious or very conscious bias. Today, I don’t want to dig all the way into the trust issues we have within our communities. It’s going to take a lot more than one article to get you to trust. So instead I want to focus on one key and critical area, trusting us with our own Illness. Because unfortunately, even the supportive individuals in our lives do not always make us feel like they trust us with our Mental Illness.
I’ve been dreaming of a burger; a sweet potato patty, or the biggest beef burger, maybe even multiple layers of each. All day today, and yesterday, all I’ve wanted to do is to take a bite out of a cow and just drown in burgers and sweet potato fries. To me this was a good sign. I was regaining my appetite after five days of not being able to eat anything other than fruit and nuts, and occasionally an egg or half a bowl of cereal. But I craved that burger more than I craved my next breath. So I was pumped to be getting that burger today, but unfortunately when the time came I couldn’t perform. I sat in my car, detesting the idea of a burger in front of me, or any other kind of food really, and it took all my willpower to drive to get a salad instead. I tried, and I failed.
I’m not saying any of this so you can be worried about me, although many of you will be regardless and I appreciate the concern. But I’m saying this to tell all of you that Mental Illness is very real. It evolves and adapts like any illness, and even after years of conforming it and yourself to satisfy both your needs, it still throws curve balls at you every once in awhile. After nearly 22 years it still leaves me breathless, and concerned. I am concerned because I am starving and yet after a glass of water my stomach does not want to intake anything. I am concerned because for the first time in five years, since my homeless months I am below my normal weight. Of course back then I was below the average for my height and now I’m just barely within it, but when you lose ten pounds in a week that’s cause for concern. Again, none of this is for your sympathy, this is to show you that this is very real.
Over the last 22 years I have learned almost everything there is to know about my mental Illnesses. Sure, some days I will be surprised, like today, but for the most part I know my illnesses better than I know anything else. I know when: insomnia will kick in, I won't be able to get out of bed, won’t be able to eat, won’t be able to see anyone, when I need to recharge and take a break from anything related to life, and so much more. I know all these things, and one of the least supportive things anyone can ever do to me and to many others, is not trusting that I know the ins and outs of my illness. I am constantly told that the reason I can’t sleep is because I’ve put it in my head that I can’t, and the same goes for everything else mentioned. But I can’t sleep because insomnia is real, and although I’d like to think I have a good amount of brain power I can not will it or any of the other things away. I do not cause any of this by putting them in my head, just like you can’t make the sky blue by putting it in your head. It’s blue regardless.
This is real! And I’m sorry to break it to you but you are not an expert on me and I am not an expert on you. But you not trusting my ability to work with my own illnesses is dis-empowering, and quite frankly a very easy way for me to avoid you through all these times. As you can tell, there are a lot of times. Be patient with us. Love us. Be with us. I know we don’t always make it easy, but we’re more than worth it.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter orfacebook.