What I Want You to Know is a series of
reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their
personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the
unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to
this series,
click here. Today’s guest posts is by Emily Haymond.

I don’t know what to call myself after 7 years on an intensive healing journey.
ill is not a term I like to use anymore. (I want it in the title
because it makes my point.) I’m not saying mental illness is bad. So
what? So I’m mentally ill. I’m just saying I like to see myself as much
more than that. My life experiences are much more than any diagnosis.
They have incredible meaning – even sacredness. Of course, if you want
to talk mental illness, I have a lot to say. I know much. I have a lot
of compassion and admiration for my fellow brothers and sisters toting
heavy labels – like bipolar, depression, schizophrenia (there are lots
more; whatever the brand, mental illness has a weight, a STIGMA, a

Mentally ill people are extraordinarily beautiful. We are
passionate. We are creative. We feel deeply. We’re not weak – we’re
strong. The truth is, we all are, all us human beings all. But extremes
in suffering leave their tell-tale mark. There’s a certain point at
which I can tell in a conversation that someone knows what it is to
suffer in their mind. It has something to do with the sudden ocean of
empathy that swells up behind their eyes in casual moments or the
cuttingly perceptive observations behind their humor or the way they
laugh at themselves quietly like they know themselves all too well.

I want you to know is…I suffer. More than you know. And no, I can’t
just snap out of it. And I can’t just get over it. And I can’t just
change my attitude. And I can’t just pull myself together or just calm
down or “just do it”. I pass for normal – in important ways, I am
normal. I’m just as human as you, maybe more (or more aware of it). So
you think when I express raw emotion or pain, you can correct it, fix
it, shut it down – give old-fashioned “get to work” advice. That’s
probably what you were taught. Maybe it’s worked for you. I’m SURE it’s
how you talk to yourself. But when you talk to me that way, it’s kind of
a tragedy. Because I work as hard as anybody – at being a person every

Something I’ve learned from about 10 years of excruciating
internal battles: there is a reason why I feel the way I feel, and it
isn’t because I didn’t try hard enough or because I made a wrong choice
or because I’m a bad person. And this is my own personal passion: IT
ISN’T RANDOM CHEMISTRY!! Something happened to me. And that’s important
because I am not just a body. I am also a mind and a spirit. When one
suffers, they all suffer, and I’m not just going to accept the way I
feel right now or treat with medication the rest of my life. It’s
different for every mentally ill person, of course. For me, the more I
learn about myself, the less conclusive I am about anybody else. I used
to think, “What’s wrong with me?” Then I started to ask, “What happened
to me?” Now I sometimes think “What didn’t happen to me?” would be a
better question. I’ve been on medications – several, thank you – and I
think they have an important place in the treatment and recovery of the
mentally ill. So don’t get me wrong.

I just have a story. There’s
a reason for my pain. And what I want you to know is – I have something
to offer the world because of what I’ve been through. And no, I am not
crazy. (I call myself that more than anybody, I’m sure, but that’s
because I want to beat anybody else to it. And now I use “crazy” as a
slang term to describe almost anything I have strong feelings about I
don’t know how to quantify. It’s kind of like “wow”.) I’ll tell you what
I have to offer: love. A whole lot of depth and spirituality and an
understanding heart.

Yes, I can be healed, I have been healed, I
am healing, and I will use what I’ve learned to help heal others. I am
changing all my old, negative beliefs about my life and about myself to
fresh positive ones, and everything will happen in its time. You can’t
force me to “get better” by force of will, but you can connect with me,
listen to me, share with me, see me for who I am.

And I am getting
better! Not only that, but I believe I am whole. Everything I’ve been
carrying around about being ill and broken and lost and wounded is just a
temporary illusion – very real to be experienced, but possible to wake
up from. If I were meant to, I could be healed all at once. But I
believe I am meant to have this journey of self discovery. And now, I
believe I am meant to be myself.

SO if I don’t get out of bed one
morning – if I behave erratically – if my emotions roller coaster out
of sight – if you don’t understand what I just said – if I said I’d do
it yesterday, but today I don’t – stop. Don’t think. Feel. Your friend is going through something. It’s amazing. It’s terrifying. It’s a
wild ride. But she wouldn’t have her life experience taken away from
her. It is damn beautiful.

If you’re wondering what you can do
to help – a little human connection is a blessed thing in this world. I
like to self-disclose so that others self-disclose. I like to look
people in the eye. And I will admit, there have been countless times
that some well-timed kindness and comfort touched my heart to the very
center. Once, I was screaming and crying in a public bathroom, and an
angelic stranger – a pretty college girl – came up and offered me some
warmth and assurance, shared with me an emotional time in her life, told
me it’s healthy to let it out, and then went and brought me a cookie.
Her name was Faun. I’ll never forget her. Hugs cannot be overestimated.

you’re in doubt about how to treat me or others like me, say a prayer.
That’s how I get through, and the more prayers the better. If you pray
for me, you’ll likely know what to say, but if you feel like saying
nothing, just a look of love means a lot. We all need love. It is fear
that drives us apart and drives us to terrible things, terrible places
inside It is love that saves us. Always.