What Happened When I Came Out of Hiding About My Mental Illness
Forgive me, for I have sinned. I have been hiding. I isolated myself in an attempt to hide my illness and my shame so I may pretend that I’m OK. I have depression, anxiety and complicated grief. Forgive me for my dishonesty and contributing to the misunderstanding of mental illness.
I have recently been diagnosed by a psychologist, whom I visited mainly due to my grief. This preceded a terrifying medical scare that required surgery, but has yielded a very positive outcome. After I gave myself time to grieve and the medical smoke cleared, I knew I needed to care for myself. The last 18 months had been too much for me to process on my own. I needed help, something I don’t often ask for.
In an early session, she stated my diagnosis. Upon hearing my “judgment,” I felt sentenced. Even more so, I viewed myself as a failure. Guilty as charged. She kindly gave me my options: medication and/or cognitive behavioral therapy. So far, I have chosen the latter. I am attempting to care for myself with therapy, fitness, nutrition and rest. When time allows, it has proven effective. With time constraints and added stress, I have not yet been successful in caring for myself, but I’m still trying. A couple of days went by after my diagnosis, and it was no longer surprising. It really did make complete sense to me. I soon took ownership and began to better understand why I was feeling how I felt. Weeks passed and therapy continued. I worked on taking care of myself with a deeper understanding that I was indeed sick and needed to invest in self-care and wellness.
During my grieving process, I started a personal blog to heal myself and to provide a creative outlet of self-expression. In addition, I continued to write privately, as I wasn’t quite ready to share my most personal works. Feeling ready to branch out, I recently decided to submit my work for publication.
I submitted to The Mighty. Prior to submitting an essay, I briefly read through the posted articles. I knew I fit. What I didn’t yet realize is how much. I didn’t expect to find a community of support that also served a role in my treatment.
After my submission and prior to the publication, I found more and more essays echoing my experiences. I was beginning to better understand and sort out key characteristics of my depression and anxiety. The self-doubt despite past successes, the worry and fear stirred by over-analyzation, the insecurities, and the overwhelming weight I carried on my shoulders — all were spelled out in black and white. The paralyzing fatigue I felt nearly every morning as I forced myself to work, my impatience and low tolerance of any amount of demand were all glaring symptoms. I had been ignorant to all of the above and assumed I just needed to toughen up, put on my big girl pants and get through it. Story after story mirrored my own thoughts and feelings. I get it now. This is what it is. It’s not me, it’s the illness. It’s not me! Sadly, I’ve felt this way in varying degrees for the majority of my life.
This relieving identification has not only helped me to recognize my illness, but also to identify my triggers and my needs for treatment. Now when I have a bad day, I don’t further blame myself. I understand it’s the nature of my mental illness. I am learning that healing takes time, patience and diligence. A bad day reminds me I need to take care of myself. Eventually, I will be able to know my depression and anxiety better than they know me. I am beginning to heal. I am finding my way towards wellness.
These revelations would not have taken place had it not been for being exposed to such a community of confessions. All of the accounts and experiences helped me realize I am not alone, nor am I the only one who feels or thinks this way. These confessions shattered the rose-colored glasses of social acceptance and brought a voice to the reality of mental illness. In doing so, it also formed a community. This community is providing education and comfort, a true gift to someone who believes they are alone. Although the details of our situations may differ, the common threads of the illnesses we share weave a tight blanket of healing validation.
I send my gratitude to everyone who bravely shares their struggles to break the silence of illness. Thank you for stepping out of hiding to come forward. Silence divides. Sharing brings awareness. We are stronger together. We are a mighty community. Peace and healing be with you all.
Image via Thinkstock.
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