no, THIS is what mental illness looks like.

My name is Mari. I’m twenty-six. I lived with severe, suicidal depression for years, complicated further by borderline personality disorder. Thanks to one memorable episode of overmedication, I am prone to hypomanic episodes. I am still struggling through panic disorder.

I am medicated to the gills. Not to keep you safe. To keep me safe. Also to keep me from locking myself in a quiet closet somewhere forever and ever. The scariest part about mental illness, for me, is the decade-plus fight to get to a place where I can function like the rest of you — and not being there yet. Forget stopping the drugs. I am still fighting even with the drugs. I honestly don’t know what kind of therapy will remove, say, the emetophobia. (Fear of throwing up, to the point where I would sooner die.) I suspect it will take hypnosis to truly be all right, because very little of what I have tried so far has helped.

I watch myself on the down days and the up days. Seasonal depression is always a threat here in the Great Cloudy Northeast. When my brain gets hold of a notion, it has trouble letting go again — this is why, when I’m inspired to write, I sit there writing and researching for hours. All night, even. I went to bed at 7:45 this morning because I had the bit in my teeth and could not let go. This is also one of the reasons you don’t give me caffeine unless I truly have nowhere else to be the next day.

I have horrific nightmares. I dream my own rape. I dream my own execution (attempted and completed). I dream I am hurting people and wake up wishing I could vomit. I dream entire wars that never were but could so easily be. You could write a hundred dystopias if you dreamed with me, only you wouldn’t want to, because then you’d have to see these dreams for yourself.

This is exponentially better than before. I can live through this.

I have no urge to hurt anyone. I would sooner die than do what was done at Sandy Hook.

So would just about everyone I know who shares my fight.

I know broken happens, okay? I know there’s a line, and that there are people who cross it. Beyond “broken”, I cannot say what makes people kill other people. I am nobody’s psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, counselor, or clergy. I am learning how to do one of these jobs, piece by piece. I am still not qualified to say what happened because I was not involved with this killer or any other killer.

In case you’re wondering? Unless you were that person’s psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, counselor, or clergy? You’re not qualified, either.

Stop speculating. Start listening — to me, to my friends, to everyone who actually deals with mental illness on a regular basis. We are the face of your catchphrase. Not killers. The people you work with, live with, have learned with, may teach with. We are the reality. We are the majority. Killers are outliers. Killers are a subset of a subset.

Stop letting the media speak for us. We speak every day. You are the sick one if you would really rather trust the talking heads on the television in this regard. Don’t ask anyone but us how this works. We are the only ones who can say for certain what it’s like. Privilege our truth over your assumptions, open your mind, and hear.

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