I am Mentally Ill

This isn’t a ‘coming out’, because it was never a secret. Most of my friends are aware of it to some degree, though few know the specifics of my diagnoses; that kind of detail is a bit too personal. For the purpose of this blog I’ll confess that one of the things I’ve battled over the years is severe depression.

For me, there isn’t a stigma attached to being mentally ill. It probably helps that I’m very high functioning. I could probably keep it a secret from everyone but my roommates and closest friends if I wanted to, but treating it like a secret might imply that I’m ashamed of it, and I’m not. I’m not going to walk around in a shirt that says, “I’m mentally ill! Accommodate me!” but if the topic comes up, I’ll openly discuss it from the perspective of personal experience.

Plus, I’ve always been very comfortable with labels. Growing up I often felt “different”, and finding out that some part of my oddness was common enough to have a name was comforting. Sure, I’m different, but it’s a very normal kind of different.

If anything I find the label validating. During my teenage years I was told I was difficult, moody, erratic, and even a bitch, well beyond what was reasonable during adolescence. I was made to feel like I was a bad person, but I’m not a bad person. My brain chemistry is just a bit different.

It isn’t a “get out of jail free” card, though. I’m not going to run around being as moody and erratic as I like, casually waving off anyone I bother with a dismissive “it’s not my fault; I’m mentally ill.” I don’t want a good excuse for seeming like a bad person, I just want to be seen as the good person I think I am. So instead of handing out “forgive me, I’m nuts” cards to everyone I offend, I’m proactively dealing with it in as many ways as I can:

Excess weight and lack of exercise are both associated with higher rates of depression, so I’m losing weight and working out more often.

I’m seeing a therapist twice a month for cognitive behavioural therapy. She’s recommended meditation, and I’m trying that, too.

In two weeks I’ll be going to see a psychiatrist and will probably be put on an antidepressant. I’ve been on them before and I’m frankly not thrilled with the idea, but it’s more a pride issue than anything else. I don’t want to have to hold up my hand and admit I can’t handle it all on my own. I don’t want to accept that I can’t just unravel my issues and walk away from them, because there’s an underlying biological condition which also needs to be tackled. I have never liked asking for help, it makes me feel stupid, impotent, and incompetent. But if I step back and take an honest look at myself, my health, and my life, it would be arrogant and dishonest to claim I don’t.

I do. I need help. So I’m going to go get it.

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