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Having A Mental Illness Is No Different Than Having Diabetes

Posted on Saturday, May 8, 2010 in Mental Health

I usually don’t bring up my mental illness. Mostly, because people are quick to judge and don’t understand. Having a mental illness is no different than another chemical imbalance – be it diabetes or something as small as allergies. Like other ailments, it can not be cured, but you can take medicine to treat it. You can stabilize it.

For those of you who are new to reading my blog, I have schizoaffective disorder. The schizo-part is hallucinations and the affective part is depression. Both are kept relatively in check with medicine. However, part of being stabilized for me – is needing to take naps throughout the day. If I get too tired, I start to hallucinate. It’s not a big deal but it just makes it so I can’t work a full time job. However, my inability to have a full time job is a -big- deal to some people.

I don’t really understand why. With normal interaction with me, I “pass” perfectly well as not having an illness. People who know can’t tell/forget because I am stabilized. For acquaintances and friends it isn’t an issue. But I have people who reject my friendship once they find out even when it’s something that doesn’t affect our relationship. It’s ridiculous, it’s like not being someone’s friend because they have allergies.

For my personal relationships, it’s a little more visible especially when I am going through a period of depression. It’s not nearly as bad as what it was before – but when my depression gets to a point where I don’t want to deal with the world or anyone in it – I just go to bed for a few days. I am never suicidal or anything. I have never hurt myself and I never will. I am just really, really sad about how reality is and I don’t know how to deal with it. This usually happens a couple of times a year. Sometimes it’s out of the blue or sometimes something happens that sets me off in a downward spiral. Sometimes it can be because my medicine stopped working or hormones or other times just because. I am never mean, cruel, or abusive. I am just really withdrawn and distant. It’s just hard to be around because until the medicine/hormones/emotions work their way though my system – I am as sad as sad can be. But, that’s as worse as it gets.

I’ve lost some friends over it who I thought I could open up to. They take it personal or judge me. “Your life isn’t that bad…” or “Snap out of it….” is a common phrase heard from someone I open up to who doesn’t understand. It’s not just about -my- life or it’s not something I -can- snap out of. I have a big heart and care a lot about everyone and everything. Sometimes feeling too much just eats you. But I’d rather feel than be calloused. I just want to be listen to if I feel like talking about it or if I don’t even know what’s wrong but am just sad I’d liked to be supported.

Sometimes I have nightmares too like last night. I have really graphic dreams; complete in color with surround sound with smell and touch. Which it’s pretty awesome when I have a dream about eating chocolate cake – all the pleasure without the calories! However, it’s pretty terrible when I have a nightmare. The nightmare I had last night was like a movie. I was -there- but I wasn’t -in- the dream. I was watching a knight rescue a princess from a hoard of angry demons that smelled really bad. The knight and princess were bonded to each other through love and the demons were trying to get them to stop loving each other – only if they were to succeed would the princess be captured. So, I was feeling the intense bond and they got really far. They road through hell itself and came to a cathedral. Only at the cathedral did the princess give into fear. She turned into the ultimate demonic monster – killing all the other demons and her beloved at the end. Somehow, since they failed that time, I was transported back into baby Jess. My whole life flashed before my eyes until I was back to the moment when I had the dream. The demons were chasing the princess and her prince and I woke up with the words, “This time it will be alright.” lingering in my subconscious. Needless to say, after such an epic experience, I couldn’t fall back to sleep.

So apart from needing naps, bouts of depression, and nightmares; I’m almost “normal”. But, if I happen to mention my illness to an acquaintance or someone who I have a blooming relationship with – it’s often times a dealbreaker. I don’t understand why though. I mean, if I was really crazy: mean, abusive, and dangerous – I’d understand. But, I am kind, compassionate, and harmless.

As much awareness as there is for lgbt, mental health is still kept in the closet. I don’t like having to “hide” from people that I have schizoaffective disorder. I am not ashamed or embarrassed by it. It won’t even affect our relationship most of the time. Even if they do get close to me, it’s not horrible. It can be a bit rough but it’s not life-threatening. It’s just something I have. But, people are too quick to judge and dismiss when they hear the words, “mental illness.” They miss out on the opportunity to learn and grow. Which is really their lost on getting to know an awesome person who’s “worse” feature is something beyond their control.

Bring on the comments

  1. Andrew Olson says:

    Wow, I really haven’t heard about this kind of issue being raised before. This is really interesting, while at the same time horribly depressing to hear that someone has to deal with it in their life… :'(

    I hope you can find people who aren’t so shallow and callous as to toss you aside the moment they realize you have a health problem. The same thing happened to my mom; only, it was after she divorced my dad (who screwed up pretty bad), got leukemia, and married a, -gasp-, Jewish man!
    People are just stupid and bigoted sometimes; they’re products of the world we live in unfortunately. The best you can do is to try and find the folks a little more mature than that kind of bullshit. I wish you best of luck and deepest compassion, fellow veganarch. 🙂

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