This is a phenomenal question! A question that I happen to know occurs quite often in this world, in this society, and in any environment where mental illness is still considered some form of madness, rather than a disease like cancer, which is exactly what it is. As someone who is an advocate and activist for mental illness, as well as, someone with many mental illnesses of my own, despite my being high functioning, and otherwise the last person in the room suspected of having any mental illness, no less the “horrific” ones that I have, I am happy to answer this.
The first thing that you do is get professional help. The most important thing when you are suffering with mental illness is to get help. I cannot stress enough that whatever you are suffering from there is something that can help you. There are no mental illnesses at this time that can be “cured” but there is treatment. There are things that you can do to make your life better!! You are not alone and you are not without hope, you can get help. If you are under insured or uninsured, or if you don’t even know where to start here: Home | MentalHealth.gov. I always advise to learn as much as you can about your mental illness, not only from the outside, but to understand yourself – keep journals, keep track of your moods, your medication, things you do, see if you can’t find how certain things make you feel better, and stick to those.
Secondly, if you aren’t put into a behavioral therapy for treatment, that doesn’t mean you can’t find groups where you can talk to others who have the same problems as you. Again, that website I listed above has links where you can find support groups where you can talk to people who have the same problems. You can learn different ways of dealing with issues, get different points of view. There is a website called meetup that I get notifications from about groups in my area that have interests like mine – many of these groups you don’t have to give a blood oath to join, just show up. If you don’t like them, you don’t have to go back, but it would be a new group of people to talk to. They have tons of interests that you can pick from. Any positive changes in your life, for example if you aren’t someone who likes to exercise, but maybe you like taking walks a couple times a week, or riding a bike – or just getting outside and working in a garden. Even going to a library once a week, or going to a favorite store. Anything that you can do that breaks your normal routine that lets you get away from your typical schedule is always a welcome break. If people pull away from you, this is absolutely the time to find more ways of spending time away from a quiet, confining situation where you are more likely to notice their loss.
Take care of yourself overall. Take your medication, do the things you are supposed to be doing, make positive changes, look for groups for things that you are interested in, work on making you a better you. And then, honestly, you will realize that you are damn lucky that you lost those jerk offs who are so completely judgmental and such lousy friends as to dump you because you have a mental illness. I have yet to find one person that I lost due to realizing that I had mental illness, that wasn’t more screwed up than I was. Frankly, people with mental illness at least have a reason for why they are the way they are, and those that I know are trying to get help. Those wretches that left me – not only do they not have such a valid excuse as mental illness, but they walk around believing that they are perfectly healthy despite the fact most people can’t stand them. Believe it or not, the majority of mentally ill people I know are nicer, more forgiving, more tolerant, more fun, more hysterical, and way better people than any non-mentally ill people. The ability to recognize we aren’t perfect does make a great deal of difference. If someone would abandon you because you are mentally ill – that’s their loss.
As cliche as I know it’s going to sound, this is the honest truth: Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth. I have been counted out most of my life, starting with my own parents, and it just kept right on going. Believe it or not, discovering that I was mentally ill was actually one of the best days of my entire life – it truly was. It was the first time in my life that I was allowed to understand that the problems I had been having since birth, problems that were brought on by being an HSP, having mental illness, and growing up with abusive parents, were actually not because I was, as my mom had been telling me, that I was “weak,” “thin-skinned,” and I just needed to “get tough.” Spend 31 years beating yourself up because you think you are a weak, thin-skinned failure and I promise you, someone telling you that you had mental illness that was not your fault, and I guarantee you, you’ll understand how that was the best day in my life. Not only was I not a failure, but I had been standing up against problems that would have crippled some people, and add to that I had been dealing with two people who were just trying to beat me down. Mental illness by itself is a challenge. If your friends walk away from you, then you don’t need them as friends. You have been facing a challenge already, and you are standing up in the face of it – hopefully getting help, or will be getting help – that’s more than most of those false friends have the courage to do. You are fighting your battle, and that is – trust me – one of the strongest things in the world, don’t let weak, small minded people convince you otherwise. Don’t let them break you. I know your worth because I know your struggle; don’t let anyone take something from you.
If you are having problems, need a friend, feel alone, having problems…well, you could do a lot worse than me; I’m a perfectly nutty person always looking for more friends. I’m not judgmental, I love other mentally ill people, I’m loyal, and as long as you need a friend I won’t ever abandon you – firstname.lastname@example.org. I talk to a lot of mental ill people around the world, sometimes helping those who do not have mental healthcare near them, some who just need advice or support, others who just need someone to talk to – feel free to write me any time.