January 19, 2017
When You Can't Hide Your Mental Illness
I know some people can hide their mental illness behind a mask, who you would never expect to be struggling or sick.
I am not one of those people.
I would first like to acknowledge however, that there are certain challenges that those who can “fake” being well experience, and this is in no way meant to demean their experiences. But there are also difficulties for those of us who can’t control the expression of our illness, and this post is dedicated to you.
I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and this has had many significant impacts on my life, especially on my social functioning.
I find it hard being around people, and I cannot begin to explain how inconvenient that is in a world where social interaction occurs on a daily basis.
My face will go red, I can’t keep eye contact, I will shake and occasionally go mute, and I will have panic attacks before approaching someone I need to talk to. My dissociation will make it hard for me to keep up with conversations, and I will spend the entire time terrified.
There have been times when people have come up to me on the street and asked me what is wrong when I freeze during a flashback, or I am asked if I am bored by the person I’m talking to because I am dissociating. Or people will start talking to me in a really soft, patronizing voice that is usually reserved for little children. And during my worst moments people may even laugh at me, and tell me I look like a freak.
Frankly, it feels truly humiliating.
It is during these tense, awkward encounters that I long to be able to construct a mask to hide behind, and I wish I could squeeze all my emotions into a tiny box, and bury them for even a brief while.
I wish I had the ability to smile, look confident and speak clearly even when I am dying on the inside. But I don’t, and some days I hate myself for it.
I just wish I could have a bad day without everyone knowing about it. I wish my illness wasn’t shown so obviously on my face, and my body.
I know so many of you feel isolated by the obviousness of your mental distress, and I want you to know that you’re not alone. There are others out there that know how you’re feeling, and we love you so much.
Just remember that not being able to hide your illness doesn’t make you weak. We can’t always help how our physical symptoms appear to the world, and maybe that’s OK. Mental illness effects everyone differently, and I am learning to forgive myself for the parts of mine that I can’t control. And you should too.