Sometimes, We Are What You Think We Are

Who hasn’t yet seen—and loved?—this Tumblr post:


I love this message. It is an important message. People who live with mental illness are people just like everyone else, and sometimes it’s hard for others to see that.

But then I wondered—what if someone went to a mental hospital and weren’t able to see the humanity behind the illness? What if instead they saw what they expected to see? What if:

The boy with Tourette’s screamed FUCK YOU

The girl who raked her nails up and down her skin was bitter and withdrawn

The girl who abused drugs hid pills in her mattress

The boy with schizophrenia couldn’t see your reality

The girl who tried to kill herself lashed out at the boy with insomnia

The boy who wanted to kill himself stole forks to slit his wrists

The girl with slits and scars all over her body didn’t give a fuck when someone else was crying

The boy with anger issues punched you

The girl with bulimia told everyone every day that they  could look like her if they only just tried

The boy who was a compulsive liar never once told the truth

The girl who almost drank herself to death acted as the bully

And the boy with social anxiety sat alone at every meal?

What if you see exactly who you think we are?

Would they struggle more to find empathy for us?

Would they struggle to see our humanity?

Individuals with mental illness are people just like everyone else. And sometimes people are mean. Sometimes people are bitter. Sometimes people lash out and say terrible things to hurt others in their lives.

And in a world where mental healthcare is inaccessible, prisons are our biggest mental healthcare providers, and we blow off mental illness as if it is melodrama—in this sort of world, wouldn’t you say that individuals with mental illnesses have every right in the world to be angry?

Maybe the boy with Tourette’s tells the funniest jokes. But he might also tell you to fuck off. And it might not be his Tourette’s that said that. It might be the fact that he was bullied since elementary school, spent weeks in detention for things he couldn’t help saying, and was yelled at by his parents because they didn’t understand his condition.

And maybe the boy with Tourette’s has no sense of humor at all. He might still tell you to fuck off. But this time, it might be his Tourette’s that made him say that. It might be that years of being bullied, weeks spent in detention, and all the nights his parents yelled at him didn’t make him bitter, but kind.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter if we are not who you think we are or if we are everything you thought about us.

People with mental illness are people.

People with mental illness deserve effective, accessible treatment.

And people with mental illness—or anyone, for that matter—do not have to live up to certain expectations to be treated like actual human beings.


Have you ever experienced a time when you were expected to act a certain way to be treated like a human being? Comment below or tweet me at @jryanhuff.

Author’s Note: I am not saying the message of the original Tumblr post is wrong or needs modification. It is a beautiful, important message that has helped many see that individuals with mental illness are, in fact, people. I simply wanted to expand upon the idea.

Photo credit: Frédéric Poirot via / CC BY-NC-ND


5 Comments Add yours

  1. updownflight says:

    I really loved this. I’m glad you posted it. So far I’ve read a couple of your posts and really liked them. I look forward to reading more.


    1. I’m moving through yours as we speak. 🙂 Thank you for the compliment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. updownflight says:

        Thank you, julieryanhuff! All of the post titles I saw in your blog seemed interesting. I’ll make a note to read a couple more later.


  2. debs blog says:

    So important. Sigh. I find myself finding subtle and not so subtle ways to defend my sister’s life as more than addict all the time. (She lost that war in 2012). She was a beautiful soul- compassionate, always the first one in our family to send a birthday card on time, had a high level management career, loved the beach… She was a person. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

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