The Importance of Sharing Your Experiences

National Alliance on Mental Illnesss (NAMI) shared this on their Facebook page yesterday:

“Me telling my story today is a testament to the power of providing outlets like IOOV [NAMI In Our Own Voice], where people can feel safe putting words to their experiences when everyone else expects them to remain silent.” ~ Hakeem Rahim yesterday following testimony he provided to Congress. (Emphasis my own.)

“Everyone else expects them to remain silent” is a powerful way of putting it. Everyone deserves to feel safe when talking about mental illness.

I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy for me to talk about what I struggle with. It’s not. I’m not even suggesting you all start opening up to everyone about mental illness. I do think finding one or two people you can trust to talk to, who won’t judge you and who are empathetic, can make a world of difference.

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If you or someone you know is having a difficult time, I’ve gathered some resources from Tumblr. Or you can chat with someone live (and for free) right here.

As always, I love hearing your stories, especially if something I’ve said has helped you in any way. Feel free to contact me here. (Note: I am not always able to respond to email due to my schedule but I read and cherish every message I receive. It also should be said that I am a writer, not a therapist, so I cannot offer any professional opinions.)

 

There’s No Easy Way to Get “Well”

A little more backstory on why I took an extended break from the blog:

J.D. Salinger
J.D. Salinger

I became a recluse. I’m not about to compare myself to J.D. Salinger, but I will say I understand him. If you don’t know, he’s the author of The Catcher in the Rye. As his book’s popularity grew, Salinger withdrew from the public. He published less new work and cut off contact with people.

I did the same thing. In an attempt to handle what was happening to my life–and maybe to escape the good things and the success–I thought it would be best to retreat somewhere where only a few people could contact me. I went to work every day but I was working in a large corporation where I didn’t know many people and most of them didn’t know I was a writer. I stopped talking to most people–old friends, new friends, online friends. I didn’t go outside much, that is until I adopted Olive. She forced me outside every day and now that it’s been several months, things are a lot better.

Even as I’m writing this, I honestly don’t know what is going on in my mind. Sometimes I feel “present” and other times, like I explained to a new friend, I feel like my mind visits two different, foreign zones. It’s almost like I hop back and forth between the two, unrelated spaces. Sometimes my mind is aware of where I am and sometimes time has passed and I have no recollection of what happened or what’s changed. It’s not always scary, but I wonder what I’m like to other people.

Imagine what I would be like if I wasn’t medicated. Or is it the medication complicating things? Even under my doctor’s care (and short term therapy), I don’t feel “better.” I don’t feel “normal.” I don’t relate to many people and I rarely feel “understood.” I have days where I can get up and work and be quite productive and I have other days where I feel sick. My “sick” days are when I’m moody or depressed. Sometimes I’m so moody I just push everyone away. The depressed state is a bit different. I usually feel like the whole world is against me, everyone hates me, and it would be better just not to exist. You can see how easily someone who struggles with feelings like this would make for a terrible blogger. After all, we’re supposed to ignore trolls and not let them affect us. No one is immune to hate.

Despite what I share here, I’ve done a damn good job at coping with my illness. But often, it gets to me. It gets to me even more because I work hard at trying to make myself well and trying to fit in. In a society where everyone’s goal is to appear like they have the perfect life, it’s hard to feel like a misfit because of my difference. Disorders of the mind aren’t something you can work at and make go away. You can’t pretend they don’t exist. Hell, you can’t even make them go away with expensive pharmaceuticals. You suffer through them. 

One of the reasons I said no to a few TV production companies last year (when asked to create a show based on my personality and work) was that there’s no easy answer to getting well and if part of my story is my “recovery”, then wouldn’t that make for bad TV? Everyone wants the quick answer. They want to be lied to. But the truth is, there’s no self-help book that will fix everything. Even with medication, we–those who struggle with certain illnesses–aren’t “fixed.”

Read Next: What It Feels Like to be Depressed