First of all, everyone's situation is unique, so I'm not claiming to speak for everyone, but I definitely want to open the conversation for others. Secondly, some of these are a little exaggerated perhaps, but this is what someone may hear when you make a similar, thoughtless comment. Thirdly, I apologize on behalf of the church that the subject of mental illness is actually as much feared in the midst of Christians as non Christians; we are all human. And lastly, the brain is an organ, and all organs can be sick or genetically messed up. Have grace when someone opens up about a familymember or themselves!
1. It can't be that bad.
That doesn't help. And if I'm saying it, then I feel it is that hard.
2. Why don't you just get them help?
If I'm telling you, chances are we've already been through a bunch of resources and this has been going on a while. Sometimes the doctors aren't a good fit, sometimes they don't know what's going on, sometimes the meds make things worse before they get better.
3. Isn’t there a medicine for that?
Meds are not always the answer. And a person has to take the meds for them to work. And people with mental illness often go to extremes to hide that they aren't swallowing the pills.
4. Why don't you just make them (do, go, etc.)?
Have you tried to make someone do something they don't want to, who's bigger than a 5 year old lately? It's hard to manipulate a manipulator.
5. But they seem so nice...
Said every serial killer's neighbor. Seriously. You can't judge a charmer by their charmingness and "know it's genuine. "
6. They would never do that...
I know it's hard to comprehend someone torturing a dog or assaulting a sibling or their own mother or father, but you're either calling me a liar, or you believe everyone is inherently good.
7. You should pray that God casts out their demon.
First, did you get some message that I didn't? Or do you think I didn't pray hard enough? While I personally do believe there are demons, I also believe the brain can be ill, and I don't jump to conclusions. Often you'll find the family has prayed a very long time, and I don't believe one prayer is more powerful than another, because it is God who is powerful, not my prayer.
8. Why don't you just leave?
Because running away from a problem solves it? Things are often more complicated than that. Someone may struggle with feeling like they are abandoning other family members, the mentally ill family member himself, or just be afraid they don't have the resources to make it on their own and fear that going back after being gone may be worse.
9. Are you scared it's genetic / that their children have it?
This question is often asked by someone who rather enjoys striking fear into someone, but what person has not considered that possibility who has known their situation for more than a few days?
10. Have you talked to them about how you feel?
Ummm, in most cases, that's not going to stop the behavior, and if it was that easy to change what's going on, then we would have eradicated mental illness by now.
11. But you're not in any real danger, are you?
One of the things about mental illness is... it makes a person unpredictable. Sometimes, yes. Again, are you just being nosey, or are you trying to help?
12. What they say shouldn't hurt you, because you know it's not them talking.
Nope, pretty sure it still hurts. There is not a switch where I can tell when they are thinking clearly and when they are not - if they ever think clearly.
13. But you can tell when they're lying, right?
Not necessarily. They may not have the same reactions each time, or even feel guilt.
14. Bipolar, are they suicidal? Sociopath, does that mean they're a serial killer? (Insert other misunderstandings here.)
No, but thanks for trying to understand, confirming that everyone is going to shun me like the plague now.
15. Maybe they'll outgrow it.
Yes, I will always hope they can change. But some of it may never be healed this side of Heaven, and I have to - they have to - live with that for now.