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On Passing and Out of the Closet (Mental Health)

Posted on Saturday, January 9, 2010 in Mental Health

Passing means that a person is able to present themselves in such a matter that they are read and perceived as something they are not but can “pass” as being it. For example, passing in reference to gender identity refers to a person’s ability to be accepted or regarded as a member of the sex or gender with which they identify, or with which they physically present. I never try to pass as anything – or rather, I thought I didn’t until it was brought to my attention yesterday.

I went to the doctor with my dad for a casual check-up. I was just being myself and I thought nothing of it. I left when it came time for my dad’s check up because his was a little more involved than mine. I ran across the street to the independent music store and picked up a compact disc by the band Pretty Girl Makes Graves entitled The New Romance. (I am listening to it right now and it’s awesome.) When I met up with my dad again, he told me the doctor gave me a compliment. My dad told me that if my doctor didn’t know my medical history – he would have never been able to tell there’s anything wrong with me.

I wasn’t too sure if that was really a compliment. It got me thinking about passing as being a normal member of society. I’ve been thinking about coming out of the closet on this issue for a few days – ever since I read A note about suicide (not a suicide note). I think it’s important that people talk about these things.

For some reason, it’s okay to talk about a broken arm but it’s not okay to talk about mental health. I think by keeping these issues in the closet does more harm than good because people feel they can’t talk about what is affecting them. I am usually pretty outspoken about mental health. I don’t view it as something shameful but other people just don’t get it. I don’t view having a mental health issue to be any different than having diabetes. It’s a chemical imbalance that the body makes and luckily can be treated with medicine. Some people don’t share my point of view and I have lost lots of friends over the fact I have chemical imbalance I can’t control.

I have schizoaffective disorder. The schizo-part is mostly kept in check with medication. Without my medicine, I would have hallucinations. It’s like a bad acid trip – what people take drugs to do, my brain does naturally. But, as I said, it’s kept in check with medicine. My affective part is depression. I have medicine for that too but some days are better than others. Sometimes my depression gets so bad that I just go to bed for a week because I can’t deal with facing the world. I just get so overwhelmed by everything that goes on and I just can’t handle it. On those bad days the most I can do is get up, shower, and eat. I usually have a big depression once every four to six months.

It’s not the type of thing I can just “snap out of.” My chemicals are imbalance and it takes time for them to get back into balance. Sometimes that may require a medicine change if the medicine isn’t working right which is a few week process that is hard on me because I am usually really sad the entire time. When I have good days, I usually don’t remember what it’s like to be depressed. When I get really depressed, I don’t remember what it’s like to have good days. It feels like I have a rain cloud permanently affixed over my head, like there’s no point to anything and no point to living at all. I feel like why should I bother fighting so much when it doesn’t really make a difference anyways since nothing matters. I feel all alone and just really hopeless.

I’d imagine it isn’t easy on my friends or family. I’ve lost lots of friends over periods of despair because they don’t understand my illness. My life isn’t that bad or hard because my dad works really hard to help take care of me so I can have the freedom to do what I want. I am really lucky but when I am depressed – none of that matters. I mean, I constantly tell my dad he makes it so my life doesn’t suck that much. Without his help and support, I would be on disability because of my illness I can’t work an 8-hour day five days a week. I’d get too exhausted and start hearing voices.

I hear voices when I get tired or sometimes when things are going really good. It’s hard to explain – it’s just a voice in my head saying all sorts of mean, horrible things. Sometimes when I hear voices they tell me that the person I am talking to head is exploding, so inside my mind I have exploding heads, and it’s really distracting. Other times they tell me that people are plotting to kill me or kidnap me to make me really paranoid. Sometimes my leather boots become mooing zombie cows. Sometimes they tell me that I am a horrible person and unworthy of everything I have. The medicine doesn’t seem to help with them and the only cure is to go to sleep for them to go away.

The voices seem to happen a couple of times a month. It’s a real bummer when I have plans to do things and all of the sudden the voices start so I need to go to sleep. Usually, to try to avoid hearing voices, I take naps during the day.

All this someone wouldn’t be able to tell from interacting with me. Even the doctor couldn’t tell but he knew.

I never really thought about how I “pass” every day of my life as being something that I’m not. It shouldn’t make a difference how people treat me but it does. Most people think having a mental illness makes you incapable of comprehension. That they have to treat you “special”. That is not always the case. I am highly intelligent and my dad has told me I am one of the smartest people he knows. I just have a chemical imbalance. It is no more my fault than having a cold. Don’t talk down to me because of it or treat me differently. Don’t be frighten of me because you don’t understand or stop being my friend because you asked how I was on a bad day. Show me compassion and kindness. I will do the same.

Bring on the comments

  1. rhinoforthehungry says:

    Dang! You have a lot to deal with. I do feel buckets of compassion for you and your honesty in your blog is impressive. I found you from the tag anarchy and have been reading you since. My blog is all about hunger. You and I on the surface are much different but have much in common. My favorite punk band is the bad brains

  2. Jess Five says:

    Hey, thanks for reading! Hunger is an issue I care a lot about. I’ll check out your blog.

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