People who know me as an acquaintance, a friend online or even as good friends and family, generally think of me as happy go lucky, a good amateur photographer and always smiling. I’ve worked very hard to keep my struggle quiet, though I’ve been getting more vocal about mental illness in the last couple of years.
Because I keep most of my personal struggles quiet, it can be hard for people to understand why I’m on disability, why I take meds, why I’m not working and if I have so many issues, why am I always telling a joke or smiling. People can be pretty critical and judgmental about what they don’t know or don’t understand.
I’m 35 years old and I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar I, ADHD, OCD and Social Anxiety Disorder. I struggled with the majority of my issues since I was under ten years old, but wasn’t diagnosed until well into adulthood. I had so many problems growing up, from not wanting to go outside, not wanting to go to school, not being able to focus in school, mood swings, outbursts, lying, stealing, crying for hours, not being able to keep anything picked up, throwing things at people, etc. And that was just when I was really young.
I wasn’t taken in to see a doctor about it until I was admitted to a mental health unit, when I was 13, for trying to cut through my wrist with a broken razor blade. I was in and out of treatment places the rest of my teenage years, but still was never actually given a diagnosis of any kind. My family just thought I was acting up, being difficult and just plain not behaving. Unfortunately, my high school transcripts tell a pretty good story in just one piece of paper. I missed over 100 days or classes in four years, got A’s in a couple classes I could really hyperfocus on and failed almost everything else. As soon as I turned 18, I signed myself out, took the money back and left. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
Over the next almost two decades, I tried really hard to work. I’ve had over twenty jobs during those years, the only one that stuck for a little while, was a night shift hospital lab gig that lasted a few years, but I was always on discipline for attendance. When my anxiety, depression, stress was too much, I just couldn’t get myself to go to work. Most jobs had me stressed within a week trying to deal with people and not being able to concentrate and going home crying some days. I still had no idea why.
It wasn’t until I tried to work in my current town and ended up in the hospital after four days of trying to run a register in a very busy place. I was just a total wreck and they had to sedate me the first night I was so freaked out. Then…I med the best doctor (up until then) I’d ever met. He was the one that got the ball rolling. Testing and diagnosis and medications followed. Sometimes it helps, sometimes, it doesn’t. Because I had a long paper trail of hospital admissions, therapists, police reports (in some states it’s literally against the law to try to kill yourself), family statements, etc, it took less than a year and I was on disability. The relief of that, was I wouldn’t be homeless and that took a huge stressor off my shoulders, as I’d been bouncing around at peoples houses, etc.
I guess the reason why I wanted to write here, is because I understand what stigma is. I feel it all the time. I don’t even tell most people around me that I’m on disability, because you get that look, like your a lazy ass who should be working. It doesn’t make my self confidence and worth any better. So many people go through this struggle and so many people are misunderstood. I think unless you experience it in some degree, mental illness can be a bit of an enigma to people. I truly believe with more education, more awareness, it truly can make a difference.
The stories on here are amazing, everyone keep their heads up, there are people that understand.