Always lesser than

Lord Jesus, I know it’s hard for those who don’t have mental illness to understand: I, and many of us, feel small next to our supporters. I don’t think they consciously set themselves above us, yet we feel lower. We feel inferior. For me it was like my supporters were father and mother, me the child. I felt less than. Smaller. Unequal. So, although I would very much like to have a normal part in their lives, although I would have liked to care for them in the way they did for me, it seemed impossible.

Yes, it must sound like “it’s all about us.” But I think you know, Lord, that it’s not selfishness on our part to always seem to be on the receiving end of care. When a person suffers a lot like we do there doesn’t seem to be a choice. We seem to be stuck in a place of always being cared for but not feeling good enough to do the same for our supporters. Always leaning and not feeling able or worthy enough to be leaned on.

Lord, you know how I would have liked my supporters to be like real friends – more on an equal level with me. Friends with each other. Like those who supported me, I also had a role working with people who had mental health issues. I was a leader and needed friends who were leaders. But there was no one else in my community who could give me the kind of friendship I needed and longed for. I would have liked to have a leader-type friend to spend time with. Actually, I had few people at all who wanted to spend time with me. I think many saw problems with me that prevented that from happening. And I think to myself, maybe things would have gone easier for me if I had hidden my mental health problems. But that would be perpetuating the stigma I was committed to fighting.

The friends I longed for needed to have boundaries in place. And, Lord, I’ve come to see why. Boundaries are important to have when dealing with a person with mental illness, especially someone with needs like mine. Wouldn’t I – shouldn’t I – establish boundaries myself too while supporting those mentally ill people I care for? But I didn’t, and I didn’t miss them. Maybe because I was a peer. Maybe because they didn’t lean on me as heavily as I leaned on my supporters.

I was left an outsider, outside the boundaries they had created, not permitted to spend time with them as one would with others.

Lord, I wish we who live with mental health issues could be regarded as others are. Able to have the kinds of friends we need. But first we need to start feeling worthier. We need to start understanding boundaries and what it means for us to respect them. We need to learn how to be the kind of friends our supporters need.

Can you help us, Jesus?