Foregoing roses, chocolates and cards, this Valentine's Day we bring you a powerful personal story first published on the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website. If you are supported and suffering from mental illness, today is a reminder that you are loved. If you are a support system for someone suffering from a mental illness, today is a reminder you are loved, and the letter below is addressed to you.
To all the men and women who stand beside their loved one as an invisible illness succumbs us to tears, to anger, to wrist slitting, pill swallowing, agonizing desires to die; thank you. At times, you have been the singular image that kept us alive.
Whether you are aware or not, your very presence has kept us from being completely consumed by depression, anxiety, hallucinations, intrusive thoughts, suicidal thoughts and a plethora of other mental tortures. Though at times you could not find the right words, your decision to remain at our side, and witness the darkest parts of us, only made us more able to continue living, when everything within us wanted to die.
Thank you, for sitting silently beside us as we wept, for screaming loudly as you tried to convince us to keep fighting, for listening to us as we tried to explain away our fears, for all the psychiatric visits, the changes in medication, for holding us when we screamed at you to leave, and most of all, for waiting. For always, waiting; for us to return from our own personal hell. Waiting for us to rise again after we have fallen and return to you; a little bit changed, a little bit hardened, but a little bit stronger.
Thank you for loving us, not in spite of our illness, but along with our illness, and all the messy, unromantic, shitty moments that it brings. For remembering that we are simply human. For pointing out the beauty in our flaws. For finding the pieces of us that our mental illness tried to hide and bringing them back to life. For showing us that there is a future even with mental illness. There is acceptance and there is love, even for us, who can barely find the strength to love ourselves. Here’s to you, for never reminding us of all that you have done. For never counting the hours you spent beside us as we cried or for the nights you spent alone as we locked ourselves away from the world. For never using our weaknesses against us.
Here’s to you, for stepping back when our strength began to return, allowing us to stand, on shaking legs and find ourselves again. For recognizing when we were strong enough to stand on our own, for pushing us past our comfort zone when we froze with fear, and for always staying close enough, should we fall again.
For the men and women who love and support a person with mental illness; thank you. For you, we are forever grateful.
Whether it's today, tomorrow, or a week from now, if you've been meaning to thank your support system and can't find the words, or don't have the strength, we suggest sending the letter.