June 29, 2016

I am a person with many qualities. I have a huge and horrible sense of humour. It can also be a very dark sense of humour. I kill indoor plants. I tend to blow up food I am cooking. I love reading fantasy novels. I have some gifts in writing, therapy, and teaching. I am a person.

I am a survivor. Not because I survived abuse. I am a survivor because that is one of my traits.

I am a person. I have a mental illness.

I am a person. Complex PTSD.

I am a person. I need to live in an assisted living home.

When I came out to people who weren't close to me, it didn't change my life much. When I came out to family and friends of the family, I lost many of them. Others adopted a "we will help you by not discussing how sick you are" attitude. People stopped letting me be around their children. People worried that I would be contagious and their children would catch it. As one psychologist told me, it is an ignorant response, but the people do have a good goal, to protect the children. They are just completely uneducated about mental illness.

Because I am a good communicator, I have had surreal experiences with psychiatrists and doctors. They wouldn't believe I was mentally ill because I communicated so well. I have had to repeat and repeat and repeat before they stopped listening and started hearing.

I have also had good experiences coming out. I have come out to college classes. The students have been very interested (no one hiding a phone or computer or phone and texting). They have listened, understood, and expanded on what I have said. I have great hope for the future.

How do I make friends when I can't invite them to my house?

I have finally found a man with whom I can be open. Before that, though, it had been 17+ years since I had been in the dating world. For all I knew, there was now an app for good night kisses. How do I go on first dates with a mental illness?

The conversation generally would go like this:

So, what do you do?

I'm disabled.

Oh, well that's OK. (My intense personal discomfort because I can't afford coffee houses since I don't get much money for being disabled.)

On a good night, lots of talking and laughing. So, can I walk you home? (Ok, now what do I say? I can't let him walk me home because I live in a group home and my roommates are very uncomfortable around men.)

Well, I'd rather walk home myself, but I would like to see you again.

So, that's the first date.

Then the big question. I like to be very honest about who I am. At the same time, I need to protect myself. So when do I come out with the big, "I have a mental illness" discussion? And how do I explain that no drug will ever fix my cooking or sense of humour? How do I explain that I neither need nor would choose to be fixed?

I want to make decisions in my life that are not unconsciously shaped by my past. To me, health is living outwardly congruent with my internal values. I don't need to be fixed. I am me. I am already equal to, and as worthy of respect as, any other person.

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Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.

Comments

From one Maggie to another

Hi Maggie - wow, what an open, brave and inspiring post. My husband has bipolar and we can't/don't talk about it for fear of being misunderstood and ignorantly labeled. I feel for you. I have a notion that we need to focus more on education and 'normalising' mental health. I wrote a couple of pieces on this which you may or may not find interesting. One was about why #ENDSTIGMA doesn't work and we need to shift support from sufferers to joe bloggs on the street. Education and normalising mental health to stop 'friends' from withdrawing for fear of upsetting or not knowing how to act. The other piece i wrote was looking at how advice for people who are supporting cancer patients is very similar to those supporting people with mental illness. I can't link on here, but you could maybe in get in touch and i can send them or copy and paste it somewhere. Life with mental illness is so tricky and also wonderful, you clearly bring a lot of joy into people's lives and in answer to your question....tell him when you feel ready. you can't pretend to be someone you are not and if he likes you then it will make no odds to him at all. remember your worth. Wishing you all the best Maggie

complex ptsd

complex ptsd is a brain injury caused by another - not a mental illness! why are people still classing it as such, no wonder those of us with it dont get the right help

CPTSD

Thank you for sharing your story. I want to that with mine at some point. I was just recently diagnosed with CPTSD and am trying to figure things out and working out my treatment. I came from a background of rape, physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Part of my feels ashamed I have this and scared to tell anyone. I got away from my past and I am a new person but I guess things have a way of catching up with you. Anyway your story helped be reading it. .....

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