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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