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Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Secret of my Mental Illness

Everyone has their own preconceived notions of mental illness. And I can understand that. There are a variety of diagnoses and they tend to manifest in a variety of ways with different people though there are common themes that appear.

My secret is shame.

Before I was diagnosed, with ANYTHING, I had low-self-esteem, I'd been bullied for years, I had been the victim of sexual abuse in childhood outside of my family and I'd been raped (more than once) as a young adult.

The person I saw in the mirror was gawky, strange, with huge teeth, eyes, ears and a nose that didn't seem to end.

My moods and my thoughts were things I was taught not to share.

I remember being taken aside in Grade 9 after writing a story about a man beheading a young boy on Devil's night and licking some of the blood off his black leather gloves.

Even younger than that, I snapped when I was eight and viciously attacked a frenemy because she deliberately broke my new Kissing Barbie.

I thrashed her with a hockey stick until I broke her ankle and then shoved her into the busiest road nearby.

I was not punished. I was not taken to any sort of professional to be assessed. It was all ignored.

But I was ashamed.

Generally I lived my life more under the radar, not standing up for myself. Not showing my feelings. Not even acknowledging that I had them.

I wrote in my diary, I wrote poetry, I buried myself in a rich fantasy life that I could always escape to until my fears crept in to it and infected it.

What was once an escape can as easily be a prison now depending on which thoughts wrestle for control.

BUT - I try to put a decent face on it, for my family, for my friends, for the world.

Because I am ashamed of how I feel and that I am so utterly unable to cope with or CURE it.

Comments about all the crazies in the world and "why don't they lock them up", news articles always focusing on the mental illness aspects of crime - fear-mongering and tarring all of us with the same brush.

I've been warned, time and time again that people will view me differently and judge me more harshly than they already do.

Mental illness is surrounded by stigma and secrets. Just like sexual abuse is (although I think that's changing).

When I was growing up - if you were raped, it was your fault. You had to have done something because boys will be boys.

And I carry those feelings about myself to this day.

Now with mental illness, the common inference is also that it's the person's fault.

Some sign of weakness or biology or life experiences or both.

I cannot for a fact say what it is.

I can only say how hard it is to try to put my best FACE forward when I have to interact with the world.

It is exhausting, embarrassing and saddening.

I cannot freely be all of myself on any given day with 99% of the people I encounter.

I have an inner circle of friends and loved ones who accept me, even if I can sometimes annoy them, scare them, depress them or avoid them.

I am thankful for that.

For them.

But this sense of shame and weakness cling to me like a second skin, an invisible viscous creature - almost an entity in its own right.

Sometimes I can claw my way through and be totally real but in unknown situations, like even at the grocery store, the safety of the false face seems prudent.

I judge myself, probably more harshly than anyone else does so why would I allow myself to be vulnerable to the world?

That happened in my childhood and look where I am now.

I'm usually not even this open with expressing my thoughts. Perhaps it's the new meds I am on - I don't know.

But really, I am writing this because I know there are others who feel as I do, who have similar experiences to mine AND I know that those people have people who care about them who may not know what goes on inthe heads of their loved ones with mental illness.

My experiences do not apply to everyone because we are all unique individuals, but I hope this can be of help to someone.

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

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