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Someone I care a lot about was recently visiting my home. It was obvious this person was in a bad mood and wanted to talk to anyone but me. When I would say something, I would get that look that says, “I want to tell you to shut up now!” The look was more like “!@#$ off!”

I’m thankful that I no longer need the approval or attention or appreciation of other people to make me feel okay about myself. I know now that people have moods, feel feelings, and express anger around me and it rarely has anything to do with me. Not to say that no one ever has reason to be mad at me but in most situations, the person’s reaction to me has more to say about them, and what they are feeling about themselves or another situation than it does about me or something I have done. (Of course, it is always good to check in with people and ask them if you did something to hurt them, make them mad, etc.)

Knowing that I am not the center of the universe or the cause for all feeling in it, is a relief. Being able to separate myself from other people (boundaries) and know that I am not responsible for all the people in my life, and how they think and feel is a marvelous place to land (even if it did take me until middle age).  (Of course, if the person we were talking about were my husband, the whole scenario would be different. I am talking here about everyone I care about besides my husband.)

It is great not to personalize everything. Not taking everything personally is fantastic and makes life much more pleasant, and far less dramatic. There is something else hidden in the situation of people treating me as if I am an annoyance to them on occasion. If people treat me like they treat others, and that includes treating others shitty sometimes, it means that person sees me like they do everyone else.

I don’t think of that as a bad thing. For instance, if I was always treated with kindness and tenderness and patience by people who tend to be moody or short with other people, what would that say about how that person feels about me? It would say that person sees me as weaker, or fragile or in need of special attention.

Having schizophrenia is not a ticket to get a pass on bad behavior and in the same way, having schizophrenia is not a pass on having people treat you the same way they treat everyone else. If those of us who have a severe mental illness want to be treated equally, we need to take responsibility for our actions (like learning to say, “I’m sorry,” and accept the consequences for our behavior). It also means we will be on the receiving end of some messy emotions from other people.

I’ll take the good with the bad because the two of them together equal me as a part of a community of people, and that is a step toward normalcy and wellness.