Anyone with mental illness knows that there is so much stigma, so much misunderstanding, and so many different ways the illness presents itself. Right now, I’m going to let you all in to what I specifically endure.
No, I do not work
Want to get this one out of the way. I’ve been working since I was 15 years old until August of 2011, when I got laid off. And yes, I did work-study in college. I found another job after being laid off for 10 months. In December of that year, I had to quit. I didn’t have another job lined up, but every single time I went through the doors, my anxiety shot through the roof, and my symptoms were so bad I could hardly function.
I’m Not Lazy
There are days that I don’t get out of my pjs. Those are days when I don’t or can’t bring myself to put on a pair of jeans, let alone a whole outfit. Other days, I’m superwoman. Getting all the things done that I’ve neglected for the last couple of weeks. But… I am not lazy. I still have symptoms. They’re dampened my the medications, but you have to realize that meds do not take my illness away. When a good day happens, I go outside, I drive around, and make phone calls to people I haven’t heard from in awhile. I have things I must do, but you have to realize that I can crash so hard that it’s devastating.
I am on disability
Free money for doing nothing, right? Oh what I would give to get to go to a job, making my own money, and socialize with my coworkers. Instead of the “luxury” of “free money”, it has been a curse. I’m slowly isolating myself. My best friend doesn’t even live in the state i do anymore. There are a few people I’ve kept in ok contact with, though, so I’m not a hermit… yet.
If you call or text me if to see if I have no plans, it doesn’t mean I want to hang out
People exhaust me. I actually have to take a nap after I get home 90% of the time. So, I may be free, but I don’t want to be exhausted… I want to stay at home and watch Netflix or write in my journal or just crash and not want to get out of my pjs. I know that makes people shun me a bit, but if I’ve already decided on what I’m going to, unless I really want to see you because it’s been way too long, I won’t change my plans.
I can still do things for myself
I’m not disabled in the way someone with any physical limitations is. I can do my laundry, wash the dishes, change the cat litter, drive my car, reorganize my room, go shopping, and many other things. There is, however, a caveat. I can’t unless I feel safe and have enough energy left. Sometimes I just have to say no to all of that. So the cat litter will be changed the next day, I leave dishes in the sink, my clothes can be piled up with both clean and dirty clothes, let my mom know that I just can’t go out. It’s a 50/50 chance.
Yes, I look normal.
I don’t have to look different (even though I sometimes do, and avoid people like the plague). I can smile. I can laugh. I can have meaningful conversation with someone. And yes, unless I tell you, you wouldn’t even know I had a mental illness. Of course, as mentioned, I don’t look normal 100% of the day. My illness has some effects that make me look void of emotion, I’ll laugh or cry at inappropriate times, if I’m really feeling scared, I will stutter (and other things, but I don’t want to go into extreme detail). This and not being able to be around people is usually why I don’t go out. Emotionally, I definitely improved with how to deal with people, but I can’t stop my appearance and stuff sometimes.
I’m not a junkie
Seriously, how can you even think that? I haven’t done drugs for over 5 years, and haven’t had a drop of alcohol for at least 3. I’m actually at the point where it’s an insult to even assume I’m “waiting for my next fix.” I take enough meds as it is… why would I do something that would negate their effects? I’ve struggled enough, please don’t put yet another label on me.
I can have a meltdown
A few of my friends know this first hand, but I try to not do it in front of people… even if it’s sitting in my car until things start to even out. So, it tends to be something else that people will lean on in their quest to say I don’t have an illness… they always see me normal. So yes, people challenging me, I do breakdown. I just don’t want anyone to see it.
I take medications
If your first instinct is to tell me I don’t need medication, then FUCK YOU! You DO NOT KNOW! Also, I’m not going to get my pill box and tell you what each one is for. You don’t need to know. If you’re still unconvinced, I’ll stop taking my meds. And then make sure that you have to take care of me. Perhaps that will change your closed mind.
I am smart
Technically I’m gifted. That doesn’t matter. Sometimes I’ll forget the word for “trash can.” That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I take care of myself, and that sometimes means that my intellect gets put on the back burner. It doesn’t bother me if it does. What does bother me is your assumption that I am “X” smart and should be able to deal with it. All of this “smartness” shit doesn’t help my brain receptors from misfiring. Read.
Don’t assume I’ve never worked
I’ve worked my entire life until my mental illness made me not to be able to function. I remember I was hired in a drugstore when I was 15, and then went to the supermarket until I graduated high school, and only left to make more money for college. Yes, that even means work-study. I was only unemployed for 2 weeks after graduation. I went from job to job, mostly because I found a better one. At my next to last job, my boss decided that I needed to take time to be re-evaluated on my meds and talk to a therapist more. I did, I came back. I felt a bit better. And then I got laid off. The next job was my last. My moods were out of control, I kept re-arranging my meds. I tried some that everyone else started to get leery of me. My symptoms are my enemy.
I don’t try to correct people who say I have Bipolar Disorder
Why? Because I lived with that diagnosis for years, I had a medication cocktail that almost worked. It treated my moods, but only a bit of my psychosis. People hearing the term Bipolar is a bit more understood by them bc a lot of people knew me and who I was, and that’s how they perceived it. When I threw in the diagnosis as Schizoaffective, Bipolar 1 type and general anxiety. That diagnoses replaced my safe haven of just having bipolar disorder. I shared the new diagnoses with friends, but they tended to shy away. To them, the fact that I had a disorder that had “schizo” in it’s name, that I was more likely to get turned away. They forget that the minute before I told them the new diagnoses, they were perfectly comfortable with me. Tell them my diagnosis changed? All the attention gets placed on the illness. They forget that the second after I told them I was still the same person.
I can’t enjoy life the same way you do.
Yes, I do enjoy life sometimes. The more people that know that either makes them happy or puts me in that jar you keep labled “fake.” It’s the way it is. But most people can differentiate between “normal” happiness and mine. They know that behind the smiles and laughter, there is something inherently evil giving me suggestions on how to act, just so it isn’t seen. They’re called “close friends.” They are the people in my life that I have to thank more then I do.
So yes… I’m all over the map. And even if my mind is cracking, I will still try to help others in some way. But sometimes… sometimes I just need to sleep