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A Warning Label for the People Getting to Know Me and My Mental Illnesses

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I’ve been told over and over again. I don’t need to explain myself. I don’t need to tell people why. However, I still believe I should come with a warning label for those getting to know me.

Warning: This woman comes with major depressive disorder, ADD, anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She comes not only with a different brain, but traumatic experiences that still haunt her. She has too much baggage to carry on her own. She also has attachment issues. Proceed with caution.

While I believe I should warn people, for their protection and mine, I don’t know how to read them this label. I don’t know when to tell them about my mental health issues. When do I tell the man I’m starting to date I was raped? When do I let him in on the abuse I’ve dealt with?

However, as I wrote that label, I came to a realization: I’m not those things. I am not what has happened to me. I am not my mental illnesses. I am myself.

My warning label should read:

Warning: This is a strong woman. She has a unique sense of humor and may tend to giggle a lot. When she looks at you and smiles, she trusts you. This woman is creative beyond what you can see. This woman cares deeper than you’ll ever know. Everything reaches her soul. She loves everyone and everything. She stands tall on her own, but sometimes, she would like a hand to hold. She will do anything for those she loves. She will fight for you to no end. Do not take advantage of her. Do not try to break her. She will only grow stronger. Proceed with caution.

We need to look at the good in us. I’ve spent so long trying to figure out the bad, I’ve forgotten I’m more than my mental health. I am a wonderful woman deserving of love and kindness.

To those of you who believe you are your issues, I encourage you. Write your own warning labels. I can’t tell you how much it just helped me. Write your first label, everything you think you need to warn people about. Then, write your true label. Write who you are, whether you’re a strong man or a strong woman. We are all strong.

We are so much stronger because of what we have gone through. We are not weak. We fight something daily, something that may be trying to kill us. We are not our first warning labels. Yet, we are the warning labels that show our true selves.

The power to believe in yourself and love yourself is stronger than you know. At the beginning of this, I was worried about whether or not this guy will text me today. Have I read him enough of that first label? Then, I realized, I hadn’t read him the true label. I hadn’t told him what a wonderful person I am. I’ve given him a list of reasons why he shouldn’t date me.

Believe in yourself. Love yourself. Be proud of the little things that make you, you.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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 Image via Thinkstock.
Originally published: November 19, 2016
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