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Lack of Understanding of Mental Illness

Last night I was feeding my cats and thinking suicidal thoughts – I like to call that a Wednesday night. And I was thinking to myself that no one (save others in my position) understands what that is like – to go from some sort of normal person in the daytime to a sobbing, suicidal headcase at night. I thought about the fact that I have spent eight years talking about this very disease, this very state, this very problem, and yet still, people don’t get it. No matter how many words I use, no matter how I phrase it, people simply do not understand.

So what do we do with the lack of understanding by others?

Lack of Understanding about Mental Illness

It’s reasonable that people don’t innately understand mental illness – it’s a hard thing to grasp and most people don’t have anything to really compare it to. And let’s face it, I don’t understand how such transformations are possible so how realistic is it to think that others can?

Lack of Understanding Hurts


And, of course, this lack of understanding hurts, because most often what it results in is people telling me (and other mentally ill people) that we’re lying, making things up, exaggerating, being dramatic. When this genuinely isn’t the case. And it hurts when people insult you and don’t accept your genuine reality. It hurts to be told that you’re lying.

What to Do about a Lack of Understanding

So I’ve reached a conclusion – some people understand and some people don’t; some people never will. And it’s my job to accept that. You can’t change others and you can’t make them accept you or your mental illness. Their lack of understanding, in the end, diminishes them, not me. I will keep doing what I do, and try to promoted understanding, education and awareness, but I’m going to accept that not everyone can get there. Not in my life, not in your life, and certainly not online. And it doesn’t matter how many words and nifty metaphors I use to explain it.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

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40 thoughts on “Lack of Understanding of Mental Illness”

  1. Hi Natasha,

    I love this post. I have bipolar disorder. I don’t blurt out the fact to everyone I meet, but neither do I make any effort to hide it. Most of the people I deal with are very accepting, but I have run into a few who just don’t get it. I think you’ve come to the right conclusion that not getting it is their problem. All I can do is speak my truth. What anyone else does with it is up to them, not me.


  2. Thanks so much for not only helping me understand my mental illness but also for helping me understand how to deal with the people surrounding me your advice has definitely helped me move my life forward ~Tom

  3. I have had many conversations over the years (diagnosed in 1987) about suicide. I have heard from others that they believe a person goes to hell if they commit suicide, others have said suicidal thinking people should be locked up, or they just need medication, or “what a selfish thing to do”.
    All these comments are perhaps said in a persons hope to deter a suicidal person from acting on the feeling. The comments do not eliminate the intense (sometimes overwhelming) desire to end the pain.
    If science is correct that the right and left hemispheres of our brains think different then perhaps that is where some help has been left untouched.
    Maybe if more bi-polar people (includes me) were taught to use bilateral physical exercise so we might think with both hemispheres we could prevent more suicides? Just a thought

  4. I can relate so much to what you wrote here. Although I was diagnosed with BPD I often have suicidal thoughts for what some ‘normal’ people would consider no reason. It is hard for people to understand and before my initial attempt and then diagnoses I was probably just as bad at the time. Traci brings up an interesting comment though about the belief that those who commit suicide will go to hell or that they are selfish. From my own experiences when suicidal thoughts are occurring in my mind I some how equate it with it being better off for everyone. I have to admit that before my initial attempt I too had always held the belief that those who commit suicide will go to hell, so that was always what stopped me before. Now at times I question to myself if the same is true for trying. Suicidal thoughts can be so terrifying and difficult to explain to others. I have found your other postings still very relevant to my own mental illness and want to say keep up the writing 🙂

  5. The comment, “….I was feeding my cats, thinking suicidal thoughts.” is so consistent with how sometimes the feeling may have been lingering and it dawns on me what I’m thinking, More and more these days (since 2005 when I started taking ‘lamictal’) I don’t go into the head spins of what others think. I think, “Sh*t, not again! I hate this.” However the intensity I felt for years (sometimes acting on) has diminished enough for me to remember I don’t want to hurt those who love me by being absent. Then I disappear to my bed and try to sleep it off. Kava Kava has helped me immensely when stress seems to be eating me up.

  6. I, too, could so relate to your first sentence. In describing my suicidal ideations, my psychologist has commented that the thoughts are very seductive and she is exactly right. But the word seductive is never one that a person without a mental illness would ever associate with suicidal feelings. I just keep those kinds of things to myself so as not to freak the normals out.

  7. hi natasha,

    thank you for persisting all this while in creating an awareness about BPD. Just wanted to let you know that your posts are a great source of comfort to me. plz continue the good work.

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