- Zachary Sullivan
Individualized Mental Illness
Something I find is often forgotten by many is that mental illness looks different in everyone. There is no definitive format that mental illness comes in, and there’s no mold that it always fits into. However, it is important to remember that just because your illness may look different from the “typical” form of the illness (which in reality doesn’t exist, generally speaking), it does not mean your illness is any less important or less in need of care than anyone else.
The little nuances that exist between different people’s mental illnesses can sometimes be frustrating when you go about comparing yours to someone else’s, so it’s important to try to keep yourself from doing that. I’ve learned over the years that comparing your mental health or your situation to that of someone else's never really seems to do much of any good. You either end up looking at someone who is in a better state and get down because “why am I in this situation instead of that one?” or you find someone in a worse situation than you and get the feeling that if someone is in a worse place than you, then ask yourself why are you having such a hard time with your situation and or that you have “no right” to feel bad about your situation. This helps no one, and can, in the end, only make your mental state worse. You have to remember that your mental condition/situation isn’t going to be the same as someone else’s, but more importantly, you must remember that it's okay to be in a different mental state than someone or to have a mental illness that affects you differently than someone else with the same thing.
Along that same vein, it is important to note how the differences in individuals’ mental illnesses and their symptoms can cause difficulties for many when trying to figure out how to go about treating or caring for their condition. Remember not to be discouraged if or when it takes a few extra tries to find a method of care that works well for you and truly makes you feel better, more in control, or more safe in your own skin. This is quite normal. Most methods of care are not universal, and no one mental illness has a universal care that will work for it. For some, simply talking out their problems with a therapist or just with a friend may help tremendously, but for others it might just make their mental state worse.
Coping strategies will also vary from person to person. A very good friend of mine uses a strategy called “color breathing” (which will likely be covered in a later post) to calm panic attacks and anxiety attacks, but for me, this has little to no effect. I prefer the method known as grounding to bring me back from an attack. This is just one example of the different coping strategies that come with the variances in people’s illnesses.
In the end, the most important thing to take away from this post is to understand that no two people will be affected in the exact same way by their mental illness, so don’t let that deter you from seeking help because your symptoms are different. Also, please remember not to purposefully or accidentally belittle someone else's situation because it is different from yours. No matter the situation, no matter the symptoms, any mental illness deserves kindness, care, attention, and compassion.