This is a selfish article. It’s about me, because I urge you to think about you.

Self-love runs through the veins of every break-up song. But why does it take a traumatic incident to remind you to love yourself?

My personal struggle with mental illness has been a contributing factor to my self-love journey. One of my main struggles is not being able to see outside of my own perspective. In this bubble, the paranoia sets in. I begin amplifying the greatest bad and I often feel guilty for the poor people in my life that deal with my symptoms.

But I can’t think of them as “poor people in my life.” They are there because they choose to be there and they continue to choose that path. They love me.

It is a cyclical setback. I develop a guilty complex and think that everyone in my life is not sincere or that they are taking on too much in order to be in my circle.

It doesn’t work like that.

This vicious circle is not broken until you realize that your friends are your friends because they want to be and they will continue wanting to be if you realize that.

Being in another relationship, be it friend or romantic partner, is incredibly problematic when you don’t love yourself — so start there. You spend every waking minute with yourself. At the end of every day, the only person you have to live with, stay with, sleep with and be with is you.

“Make sure you take your crazy pills today!”

Many of us face stigma from multiple places. But it’s easier shrugged off when you know that your crazy pills keep you afloat and that it’s OK to need help.

“I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around you.”

It hurt to hear this one, but it was OK — what that person was really telling me was that they weren’t listening to me. My struggle does not define me. I find the depression jokes and memes just as comical as you do.

I am finally at a place in my life where no joke about mental illness can offend me. The ignorance still gets to me. When people don’t try to understand my diagnosis, I take it as something wrong with their perception of the mechanics of the world, not as a reflection of my worth or something against me personally.

To me, it’s about understanding that not everyone is a one-size-fits-all diagnosis.

“Oh, my ex-girlfriend had really bad anxiety, so I get it.”

No you do not. My anxiety is nothing like hers, just like her antics and triggers are not mirrors for mine. Apples and oranges.

I used to truly believe that love was the answer to everything. I’ve narrowed this understanding — it’s really about self-love. It’s knowing who elevates you and being the one person who elevates you more than anyone else. It’s taking your pills, keeping up with your appointments. Self-love is a spectacular opportunity that often lies in the menial.

If you train yourself to take negative weaponry and understand it in a new way — as a reflection of another and of the importance that you continue to live and be OK, to combat what they say or believe — it is easier to digest. Those you choose in your support system will work to understand your diagnosis instead of using it against you.

By Victoria Gibson-Billings

Image by Saira Khan