Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash
No one wants to live with a mental illness but if you find yourself on the opposite end of a psychiatrist’s desk and they are telling you that they believe you suffer from a mental health condition it can feel like your world has suddenly stopped. Or you could feel numb, maybe a bit uncertain about what this means for you.
Everyone reacts in their own way when they are first diagnosed with a mental health disorder. For me, since I was only 14-years-old, I hardly reacted to my first mental health diagnoses. I didn’t know what it actually meant to be labeled as Bipolar or what it would mean for me in the future. I was just trying to figure out how to survive high school while feeling different from my friends or other teens in my classes.
Some people feel ashamed or embarrassed about living with a mental health disorder. They feel like they have failed some how or that they did something wrong to deserve this. Fighting battles in your head every single day that no one else knows about is hard to deal with sometimes. Perhaps people tend to feel ashamed because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness and the misinformation some people believe to be true about people with mental health disorders.
Some people believe we are dangerous, violent, and scary for whatever reasons. Maybe they watched a movie with inaccurate information or perhaps they don’t believe mental health conditions are real. Maybe their social group and loved ones aren’t accepting of talking about mental health issues and problems so they act like it’s not even there.
By educating people on what it really means to have mental health disorders and allowing them to gain insight by learning about different mental health topics, we are helping to tear down those walls of stigma one brick at a time. The more you know, the more you can grow.
When I was a teen and in my early 20s, I hid my mental health disorders from employers and people I didn’t know well because I was worried about how they would react and treat me. I didn’t want people to think I was crazier than they already thought I was. I acted like if I didn’t talk about my mental health problems, then they weren’t really there. I wasn’t always taking my medications properly, when I would actually remember to take them. I didn’t know much more about my bipolar and anxiety diagnosis then how having these disorders made me feel inside.
I started opening up more about my disorders when I was in my mid-to-late 20s. I started to learn more about my ever-growing list of mental health conditions by learning different signs and symptoms, treatment options, by taking my meds properly and learning more about the meds I took, by socializing with other people who also suffered with mental health conditions, and by pretty much just reading and researching my conditions as well as my loved one’s conditions online from trusted sites.
I started to realize that caring for yourself also meant caring for your mental health. I educated myself and continued to learn more and more about various mental health topics. The more I learned about what was going on with my mind and body, the less embarrassed and ashamed I started to feel about talking to others about my mental health and actually opening up.
Creating my blog, My Bipolar Mind, was a major step I took outside of my comfort zone when I posted my first blog post and shared personal and private information about myself. Once you put your personal business out there and, on the internet, it’s out there and it’s accessible to anyone. I wanted to create a safe space where people could share about their own mental health journey, and a place where I could share my story and experiences as well as having a place where people could learn more information about different mental health topics.
It didn’t take long for me to get comfortable with posting about my mental health – the good and the bad. It didn’t long to start getting some positive feedback from people who could relate to what I was saying. Every time someone comments about how others can relate or about how the information I shared was actually helpful, it encourages me to keep doing what I am doing and sharing my journey.
I want other people who may not be ready to open up about their own mental health just yet to see that it’s okay to talk about your mental health and what you’re feeling inside. I want to encourage people to share their stories and to not be ashamed of who they are; flaws and all.
We wouldn’t shame someone with diabetes, heart disease, or any other physical medical condition that can be diagnosed with tests or that can be detected by one of our senses. So why shame people who live mental health disorders that can be just as serious and detrimental to the person who has to live with the condition as it would someone who has a physical condition? Just because you can’t detect mental illness by getting blood drawn or by having a doctor listen to you with a stethoscope, doesn’t mean it’s not real and that it’s not affecting millions of people every day.
Trying to hold down a job while living with a chaotic mind and ever-changing moods is definitely challenging. Some days are better than others. I got sick of my bosses and supervisors treating me like I was on drugs because one day I could high energy and the next I could be low, so I started volunteering the information that I have bipolar disorder and that depending on my moods, my energy levels fluctuate. Some of my higher ups understood while others still didn’t get it because of their lack of knowledge about bipolar disorder or other mental health disorders.
The way I see it, I can’t change who I am so people are either going to have to accept me as I am, or they can choose to walk away. Just like YOU are who you are.
We can’t just flip a switch and turn off our mental health disorders, although most of us wish we could. Life doesn’t work like that. Mental illness doesn’t work like that.
I’ve found it to be so much easier being honest about my mental health then trying hard to hide something that will never go away. Plus, you’d be surprised about how many people open up to you about their mental health once you start sharing about yours. Some of us try to hid our diagnoses from people out of fear of being judged. But the truth is, some people are going to judge you no matter what you say or don’t say to them. You never know how someone is going to react once you open up which can be hard at times.
If you are going to be open about your mental health you have to prepare yourself for every possible reaction because you just don’t know. If someone reacts badly, don’t let that stop you from opening up to others in the future. It can be hard for some people to accept things that they don’t fully understand and that they haven’t been through first hand. Every one has their own beliefs and they are entitled to that. If they react badly, end the conversation and walk away if you have to. You will always find people who are supportive of you. Try to hang on the positive encounters and let the negative ones go.
Your story is yours alone to tell. Only share what you’re comfortable sharing because you will talk about more when you are ready. But I hope by me sharing my mental health struggles and triumphs that others will feel comfortable to do the same when they are ready. You should always remember that you are sick and not weak! ❤
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ADD/ADHD, Addiction, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Featured, Insomnia, Mental Health, Other, Our Personal Blog, Samantha Steiner, Samantha's Personal Blog, Self-Injury
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.