**Trigger warning, possibly**
On April 26th, 2017, I attempted suicide. Maybe attempted isn’t the right word for it, so let me paint you a picture. I had been on antidepressants for about a mont before this happened, but a few days before I started to hear this voice telling me to kill myself. Now, this isn’t strange for me. I have lived with suicidal thoughts for most of my life, but they only went as far as “No one would care if I was gone,” or “The pain would finally go away if I just died”. So, because this wasn’t strange for me, I chose to ignore it and go about my day. However, the longer I ignored it, the more frantic the voice became, until finally, while I was laying in bed one night and it was screaming in my head so loudly that I couldn’t think of anything else, I poured my bottle of anti-anxiety meds into my hand. Something caught my attention though as I was about to swallow them; my boyfriend, fast asleep on a Skype call. I could just barely see the outline of his face. His mouth was open slightly and I could hear his soft, deep breaths. I convinced myself to put the meds away and get some sleep. When I woke up the next morning, the voice was back. So, I had my stepdad take me to the ER where I was admitted into an acute psychiatric unit and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I’m telling you all of this because, as someone who lives with a mental illness, I deal with a lot of people feeling sympathetic towards me. I will tell them the abridged version of my story, and I will watch their eyes change; the look they give me suddenly resembles the look you would give a homeless man sitting on the side of the road and you have no extra cash to give him. This look, the constant “Oh, I’m so sorry that happened to you” is the bane of my existence.
Now, I’m sure those people do not do it on purpose. I understand that it’s only because the fact that they don’t necessarily understand is what causes them to do and say the things they do. But, when I wanted to kill myself, when I was sitting in that hospital room, wrapped up in a bright yellow gown just in case I tried to escape they would easily be able to identify me as a psych patient, I could feel those sad looks. And if you suffer from some sort of mental illness, those looks make you feel worse, more alienated. These illnesses take every ounce of our dignity when they roar their ugly heads; we don’t find it comforting for someone to make us feel even smaller, even accidentally.
So, what can you do? Replace your sympathy with empathy. Educate yourselves, ask questions. We (well, at least I) don’t mind and even appreciate when people ask me questions, because it shows that they want to figure out a way to help me as well as others in my situation. Keep in mind what I said before: mental illness takes so much away from those who suffer from it. Do what you can to let them know you’re trying to understand.