I'm going to need you to do me a favor: read this all the way through before you process it. I'd be ignorant to believe that I wasn't the only person sharing about my mental health journey. It seems as if our society is moving towards more understanding and acceptance of mental illness. I am excited to know that my children might live in a world that is a bit more conducive to the flourishing of everyone. The interesting phenomenon about mental illness is that those of us who battle every day aren't entirely comforted by this movement towards "normalizing" mental health.
#3: Don't Cater to Us
Like I said, I would really like you to read this in its entirety before placing judgment on what I'm saying. When I ask you not cater to my mental illness, I am not asking you to ignore it. You see, one of the most powerful ideas my anxiety chokes me with is this idea that I am a burden. My anxiety makes me feel like I am not enough. My anxiety makes me feel like I am a nuisance to the people who love me. My anxiety tells me that the get-together I'm attending would be better if I would have stayed home. If you've never battled anxiety, you might look at what I just said and reply, "That's silly. You know we love you." The weird aspect of anxiety is that I know that, but my anxiety keeps me from believing it sometimes.
This transitions me to my point: when you cater to me while I'm having an anxiety attack or antisocial moment, you inadvertently perpetuate those illogical conceptions my anxiety is trying to plant in my head. I am NOT saying that you should ignore me, not check in on me, or let me fall so deeply into my own head that I am a danger to myself. What I am saying is that I don't want you to change your plans for me. If it's time to eat and I am sitting alone in a bedroom, go ahead and start eating without me. If I text you, "hey, I'm running late. Go ahead and exchange gifts," please exchange gifts. I am likely alone or running late because I am preparing myself to be the best version of myself that I can be. When you wait for me after I ask you to go ahead, my anxiety is amplified because I then, rightfully, feel like a burden. These thoughts are illogical; I understand that. That's why anxiety is so powerful. You're fighting an enemy that makes no sense, so you can't combat it with logic.
This might sound callous, but I promise it's better for everyone involved. I know you're well-meaning, and I know that you have no intention but to make me feel welcome. However, I'll join the party when I'm ready. I'll laugh and enjoy your company. But, please, don't draw attention to me by changing plans to accommodate my coping mechanisms.