Dear AIMHOUDTMI

Dear AIMHOUDTMI,

That is, Anyone I Might Have Offended Unintentionally Due to Mental Illness (AIMHOUDTMI)

In a narrow sense, I address this letter to past work colleagues, but it could apply as easily to anyone I have met who meets the above criteria.

I am very sorry if I offended you during our time together, however brief it may have been.

Perhaps you were a work colleague with whom I shared an office for a few months before you left for another job.

Perhaps you were someone I met for a few minutes at most and then never saw again. It really doesn’t matter as the principle is the same.

I have depression and anxiety. I was going to put I ‘suffer’ with these conditions and while it’s true much suffering can, and has, been involved, I refuse to let these things define who I am so that’s how I choose to express it. I have them. They emphatically do not have me.

When we met, you may have found my behaviour aloof, uncommunicative, unfriendly, suspicious, paranoid even hostile.

I am very sorry if this is the case and I hope you will accept my apologies.

Believe me, I may have my fair share of faults, but I would hope I’m not a cruel person. I don’t set out to hurt or harm others and any inconvenience I may have caused you was unintentional and certainly not motivated by a desire to cause harm.

I could fall back on the old ‘it’s not me, it’s the illness talking’ although this doesn’t fully cover it – the truth is somewhat more nuanced than this.

What it comes down to is this. I’m not after sympathy, just a little understanding and a chance to put my side of the story across.

Do you have any idea what it is like to live with depression and anxiety? Perhaps you do. In which case, you need not read further.

But if you do not, imagine living a life where you are convinced you, personally, are never good enough, that your efforts are futile and that the people around you merely tolerate you while secretly regarding you as useless or an unwanted inconvenience.

Imagine waking up in the morning feeling as though lead weights have been attached to all your limbs and even doing the simplest of things seems impossible. Making a cup of tea feels like doing brain surgery. Writing anything feels like swimming in treacle. Smiling and saying ‘hello’ feels impossible. 

Imagine going into a place of work, surrounded by people who are laughing, joking and going about their daily business all of whom have no idea of just how you feel.

Imagine feeling unable to tell them, or indeed anyone, just how awful you feel, every day, because of how deeply ashamed you are of it.

Imagine trying to tell someone, only to be told you will ‘snap out of it’ or that you have ‘nothing to feel sorry for’ as your life is fine, with a secure place in which to live and all the comforts you could possibly need.

Imagine having all this hanging over you, feeling utterly worthless, despising yourself and all you are, and having no counselling, no therapy, no medication whatsoever because you don’t even realise you are ill.

That is what happened to me for more than 10 years before I finally sought help.

Since then, I have had medication and counselling as well as the support of many friends, colleagues and an online support group of which I am immensely proud to call myself a member.

I also have the help of this blog which has also been a life-saver and a protector of my sanity.

To all those who have supported me, however briefly, showing me kindness and understanding, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

If you are among the AIMHOUDTMI group, once more I offer my sincere apologies for whatever I did.

While my experiences with mental health problems have at times been painful and difficult, I am nevertheless encouraged by the things I have seen along the way.

There are kind, good and compassionate people in the world who understand, however hard-won the knowledge may have been.

If you have the opportunity to help someone you think may be struggling, do so. It is one of the most noble and humane things you could ever do.

Thanks for reading,

TR.

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