I see a lot of posts that describe what it’s like to be a certain way–generally, in my corner of the Internet, what it’s like to live with a certain mental illness.
I always read them, hoping to find myself reflected so I feel less alone. But more and more, those posts frustrate me.
See, they claim to share the experience of living with a certain illness in the universal sense: what it’s like to live with BPD, depression, DID, PTSD. I read these experiences, and when I don’t recognize myself, I feel excluded. Because my experience of a particular diagnosis, I feel like I’m even doing mental illness wrong.
There is no wrong way to experience your illness or yourself.
Most psychiatric illnesses have a number of symptoms, and you only have to have a portion of them to get a diagnosis. That means there are many permutations of those symptoms that can appear in each person. You can share the same basic cluster of symptoms but totally different experiences. My BPD or depression or DID may appear totally different from yours. That doesn’t mean either of us is sicker or healthier, better or worse.
But posts that claim “this is what X mental illness is like” do a disservice to many fellow crazy folk. Somebody without experience with a particular illness may well read a post like that and assume that’s what that illness is like for everybody. It forced us into boxes we may not belong in or choose to be in.
I know the intent is good–to educate people about what it’s like. But it may do more harm than good. I have no problem with people saying, “This is my personal experience of this illness.” That’s awesome; people who haven’t dealt with mental illness often benefit from hearing our experience.
Just don’t claim to speak for everyone with your illness, please. You don’t.