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“For example, one month after the Newtown massacre, over two-thirds of survey respondents reported being unwilling to be neighbors with someone who has a serious mental illness, and nearly half believed that people with serious mental illness are “by far” more dangerous than the general population.” (Quote from Huffington Post article.)

Two-thirds of the people surveyed didn’t want to be neighbors with someone who has a serious mental illness? I have a serious mental illness. So, two-thirds of those people wouldn’t want me as a neighbor?

I posted the article with the quote and wrote about it earlier, but the fact that such a high percentage of people wouldn’t want to be my neighbor didn’t sink in for a couple of hours.

That fact hit me hard.

I’m not welcome? I’m not wanted? There are people who are afraid of me, and would rather I live somewhere, anywhere, except near them? If everyone felt this way, where would I go? Where would I be wanted? Where would I be welcome? What if I have no choice but to live by one of those people who don’t want me as a neighbor? Would they try to make me so uncomfortable and unwelcome that I am forced to move out? What if I didn’t have the resources to move out? A stressful situation like that would most definitely make my symptoms worse, and I would suffer from their fear, misunderstanding, and lack of empathy and compassion. I would probably have a stress induced episode, making my life terrifying and traumatic and making me look to them as someone they want even less.

To be mentally ill is difficult. To have a severe mental illness is extremely difficult. To not be wanted and know you are not wanted is like being transported back to high school where kids had no problem telling you to get lost, take a hike, beat it. It’s like a sucker punch to your self-esteem and your ego.

The only comfort I can find right now is from a show I watched when I was four, five, and six years old – Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Here is the song Mr. Roger’s sang at the beginning of each show:

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?…

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?…

I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we’re together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?

I wish everyone with a severe mental illness could hear the words of Fred Rogers when they are looking for a place to call home.

I heard this song five days a week before I started kindergarten. The song is a piece of me, and just like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was an imaginary world with puppets, and actors, I am going to pretend that there is a community that feels this way about people with a severe mental illness, because the alternative, the reality that so many people don’t want to be my neighbor is…reality that I’d prefer to reject.