May 26, 2014

AshleyThere are thousands of diseases known to man both physical and mental. People around the globe are faced with diabetes, cardiac problems, degenerative joint issues and mental illness.

Each one brings with it symptoms that cause pain and suffering, many include a higher risk of death. Normally when someone is faced with an illness or disease others are quick to feel empathy with them and do what they can do help but with mental illness it’s a whole different ball game. For many people with mental illness it is a daily fear that a loved one will turn their back, a boss will terminate employment, even that a therapist will someday "have enough".

People's attitudes towards me have changed

The daily stigma of mental illness is a very difficult burden to bear.

There have been many times I have been terrified to tell someone about my post traumatic stress disorder and dissociative identity disorder. There have also been many times that a person’s attitude towards me has changed the moment I divulged my mental illness to them.

This really makes me wonder if people even understand the complex and deep suffering that comes along with mental illness. We are humans with dreams, passions and feelings too. Just because someone has been labeled with depression, anxiety or something of that nature does not mean they are dangerous or less than human.

I would like to focus on one particular experience I’ve had of mental health stigma.

I didn't tell him right away that I have PTSD and DID.

This was when I decided to tell another student at my college that I had feelings for him. I didn’t tell him right away that I have PTSD and DID. I didn’t because I was terrified he wouldn’t even consider getting to know the surface of who I was. This had happened many times before, and I had such strong feelings for this man that at the time I felt it was better to wait.

I prayed that if he got to know me at least for a few weeks before I told him he would realize my mental illness wasn’t what defined me and he’d stay. About a week into the relationship I told him after he had seen a diagram on my wall of my alters (other personalities). Immediately I sensed his discomfort and I asked him how he felt about it. He told me he was a bit uneasy with it and that he didn’t understand.

I survived. I also learned

I remember smiling and telling him, just to keep an open mind and ask questions. You have nothing to fear and I’m an open book. Things seemed okay for a while. He’d ask a question here and a question there, but didn’t seem to be invested in getting to know who I really was or about my illnesses. I ignored these red flags and clung to a relationship I thought was real. He kept me holding on with hugs and kisses and compliments.

Soon we discovered I was pregnant. Immediately he pushed me away, he told me he didn’t love me, didn’t want the baby and that he didn’t think a relationship with “someone like me” could ever work. It was on that day that I discovered how he really felt about me and about my battle with mental illness. I was beyond devastated and rocked to my core with a deadly fear of abandonment. But guess what? I survived. I also learned.

If you are facing stigma because you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, please, stand up for yourself. I know it can be scary, it can be hard, but you deserve it and it will help us all to end this terrible problem.

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