About a year ago, my father told me that I was not broken. “I don’t want to try to fix you,” he looked straight into my eyes with a sad smile. “I want to help you.”
This impacted me greatly. So often people treat me like I am flawed. If I can just be free of the eating disorder, if only I stop thinking like that, once I live in the way that they think is “normal” and “healthy,” then I can be free and happy. Until then, something is wrong with me.
Truthfully, my illnesses destroy me and my relationships. If I obey the disordered voices in my head, I would be dead or hospitalized. But does that mean that something deep down inside of me is broken? No, I don’t think so.
When people want to fix you, they often have the best intentions. At first, they look at you with love and pity. With gentle words and kind smiles, they urge you to do the right thing. Of course, you want to make them happy. Thus, I often try to obey what others say. If only I try harder, everything will be ok. More self-control, less worrying, forcing a smile on my face – all of that will fix my problems and make me a whole person.
Yet, trying to make yourself solid and pieced together is difficult. What am I missing? How can I be unbroken? Discouragement comes along with self-hate. As you try to make yourself better, hopelessness sets in and reminds you that you are worthless. In fact, you are so worthless that people need to change you. After all, you are broken, right?
During this inner struggle, friends and family begin to change too. Instead of sad sighs and pleading eyes, they turn to you with annoyance and exasperation. Why can’t you just stop? Those thoughts are stupid, your worries are not rooted in reality, and fixing you is becoming a chore instead of an act of love.
Support people who have been in this position, I am not trying to blame you. Your job is so painful and difficult. However, please think about how you treat your loved ones. Do you see them as broken? If so, are you trying to fix them? That might seem like the right response, but in the end, it causes more agony. No one wants to see themselves as a mess that someone else needs to clean up.
So, if someone with mental illness is not broken, then what is she or he? Can I honestly say that I do not need fixing? These questions have bothered me. The answers are not simple, and perhaps I have them wrong. However, it is important to think about and ponder these things.
People with mental illness are hurt, suffering, and in need of healing. They need care, help, and hope. This can be true while holding to the belief that they are not broken. We are whole and beautiful. Yes, disorders cause us to do unhealthy behaviors. Sure, those need to change, and we need to receive care to become stronger. But that does not make us broken; it makes us wounded. With the right remedy and care, one can heal a wound.
So please, if you have a loved one with a mental illness, think about how you treat them. Do you see them as broken and in need of fixing? If so, try to change your view. Do not see them as a burden or project to work on because that will just build up resentment between you.
To those of you who feel broken, please try to see that you are not. Yes, it does seem that way especially if others treat you like that. Deep down, you are wounded but whole. Healing can come.