Thursday, August 9, 2012

Normal you say??? What in the world is that?

I could just sit around and pretend I don't have a diagnosis, pretend that I am completely "normal" (whatever normal means) and never discuss my illness with anyone.   

But the question is WHY? Why would I do that? Why should I do that? Why would I feel it necessary to do that?

Well for  12 years I did just that! I sat around and pretended I didn't have a diagnosis, I pretended that I was completely "normal" and I never discussed my illness with anyone.

To me, my illness was always a deep dark secret that I didn't want to let out for anyone to see. I could never discuss things with a therapist despite how badly I needed it at times. I could never bring myself to be completely open and honest with even my psychiatrist.  I consider myself to have spent 12 years in some sort of a denial.  I quietly took the meds I needed to take to keep me as mentally healthy as possible yet never discussed my illness with anyone.  If it were ever brought up I dodged the topic real quick, even if it was my family bringing it up. The topic of Bipolar was a no fly zone for me, unless of course I was talking about someone else with Bipolar, in which case talk away!  I was embarrassed of my illness but even more importantly and detrimental I was in denial.

I learned in a recent relationship that hiding my illness just causes complications in the long run.  Being open and honest about it is both healthy and important.  While you won't see me walking through the mall talking to people about my suicide attempt 5 years ago or the psychosis I was experiencing last year you will now find me much more open and honest in general about my illness.  I have found a new level of honesty with my psychiatrist that I never knew possible and I have definitely reaped the benefits of it.  When I stated in the above paragraph "I quietly took the meds I needed to take to keep me as mentally healthy as possible", what I really meant was, I was never as mentally healthy as possible because I was never completely honest with my psychiatrist.

I'm not perfect nor do I want to be, I have flaws, I've made mistakes, I even have a few regrets no matter how much I say that you should never regret your experiences because they are all lessons.  One  of my biggest regrets is not discussing my illness with the people that were important to me in the past.  I regret not discussing the fact that I have a diagnosis and how my illness presents itself, what it looks like when I start to become symptomatic, etc.  There are 2 reasons this has become a regret of mine.  The first is that typically I don't recognize my manic symptoms until they get pretty serious. I am typically better at recognizing my depressive symptoms but not if it is a quick onset of symptoms.  Helping those that are close to me understand my illness and what it looks like when I become symptomatic provides me with a support system for when I begin to exhibit symptoms, these individuals may even be able to recognize my symptoms before I can recognize them for myself.  As a result of opening up, I now have that support system that I have never had before. The other reason that this is a regret is because hiding my illness can and has ruined friendships/relationships in one way or another.  Last year I hid my illness from someone very close to me until I literally couldn't hide it anymore and once I finally admitted to having Bipolar I still never once had a conversation with this individual about Bipolar, what my symptoms look like and so on. Without going into too much detail, the onset of some psychotic symptoms did not bode well for a relationship that was aleady detriorating in many respects (with just cause but entirely unrelated to the Bipolar).  Let's just say it added complications to walking away from one type of relationship in the best way possible in order to develop a different, healthier kind of relationship with this individual, now there is no type of relationship at all between us. On top of that this individual had no idea what to expect from a "Symptomatic Sara" and they may possibly have been able to help me identify that I was becoming symptomatic far before I was able to identify it myself (just speculation, I could be wrong there).

I tell you this because that was my turning point.  That was the point where I realized, yes, I have an illness but it is nothing to be ashamed of.  My illness is not a deep dark secret it is a part of me just like my brown eyes, my curly brown hair, the head on my shoulders that I am so lucky to have (I've done just fine despite the brain disorder they call Bipolar), my ambitions, my hopes, my dreams, etc. Every little part of me is just the same as the bipolar, one tiny piece of me that all fits together to make me into who I am.  I realized that I have spent so much time and energy hiding my illness from those that I love and care about.  Instead of hiding it I could have been educating those in my life about my illness.  I also realized that anyone that doesn't accept me just because of my diagnosis doesn't deserve a place in my life anyway.  I knew that I could no longer just go through life hiding the fact that I have a diagnosis, no one should ever feel the need to hide something like that.

So here I am, not just discussing my illness with those that I love and care about but discussing it with the world.  I went from one end of the spectrum to the other.  My blog was not intended for me, it was intended to fight stigma, educate about mental illness, raise awareness of mental illness and provide a sense of belonging to those who are suffering from a mental illness.  I am so happy to know that I have touched the lives of individuals who follow Kissing Stigma Goodbye on Facebook and who read my blog.  Hearing from those individuals makes it all worthwhile.  Despite the fact that the blog was not intended for me, I would be lying if I said it hasn't helped me as well.  This blog is an outlet for me too, I can't wait to begin writing more regularly again.  Only 1 week left 'til I graduate and I can make that writing happen again!

Thank you to all of you who continue to come back to my blog time and time again.  Thank you for those of you who have sent me supportive e-mails and messages on Facebook.  Thank you to those of you who have sent me e-mails telling me their own situation and e-mails discussing how my blog has been able to help them. And of course, thank you to those that I love and who love me that make me feel completely comfortable discussing that I have a mental illness and make sure I know that it makes me no different from anyone else!  Without them, I wouldn't feel open and comfortable enough to have this blog and to be raising awareness and fighting stigma!

Thanks for reading! Until Next time...

-Kissing Stigma Goodbye-

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