Thursday, November 1, 2012

Breaking the Stigma of Chronic and Mental Illness

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In addition to using NaNoWriMo for some behind the scenes blog post writing, I've decided to dedicate November to writing about health. I've joined up with many other health bloggers in National Health Blog Post Month. While you'll find my probably offensive untypical sense of humor still around, I'll be talking about health and in particular, my health and how living with both mental illness and chronic illness effect life.

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I remember being younger and watching television shows that depicted people with depression, anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. I laughed and rolled my eyes thinking, "Wow, those people need to be locked up."

Never knowing that even at that very moment, I was dealing with my own form of mental illness. I just thought I was quirky, and liked things certain ways. I thought that my mind wasn't able to focus properly, and that I was easily distracted by my thoughts. As I got older I began to worry. Was I going crazy? Other people didn't think this way? What did that make me? I jokingly told my husband that I'd come to accept the fact that one day I would snap and would probably need to be institutionalized.


And then I found out what OCD was (not the kind depicted in television shows and movies I had seen). I wasn't just quirky, or easily distracted, or crazy. I was living with obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and general anxiety disorder. And I kept it a secret for years. I didn't want to be locked away. I didn't want people to look at me like I was crazy. I didn't want people to stop loving me. And most importantly, I knew I couldn't rationalize the reasons I thought the things I obsessed about, or the compulsions that came from those obsessions.

Eventually when I did finally come out to the world as mentally ill, I was faced with much of the stigma that applies to mental illness. Explaining my dark thoughts labeled me as suicidal despite my absolute fear of death. My fear of red cars and driving was labeled as superstitious. My fear of social gatherings labeled me introverted, and depression made me look lazy.

But then something amazing happened!

Other bloggers, women I loved and respected opened up about their struggles with mental illness. Women I knew were productive, loving, talented and amazing. And suddenly I wasn't alone.

And I became one of them. A blogger who told it like it is. Who didn't tip toe around the details of mental illness, but laid it out for you. Because people need to know how it feels. People need to understand that we are not broken or worthless. And we are not alone.


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