I am diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I am not those things, but they do like to remind me now and then that they are lurking. When I was younger, I had the energy and idiotic optimism to compartmentalized and try to deal with my “quirks.”
I am in my 30’s now. The energy is gone and the optimism has turned into sarcastic wit. I still love my “quirks” but they are a lot less cute when shit just needs to get done and I can’t get out of bed. It takes an army of doctors and lots of meds to keep me productive.
I had a major episode recently and reading the stories online from other people who struggle with mental illness made the anxiety subside and lessened the guilt of being useless. I was also reminded that reading was about all I could do. People just don’t talk about mental illness. I was out of work for a month. My friends knew what was going on. They were there for me every step of the way and made it so I only had to worry about getting better. Funny thing was, when I got back to work, my friends had unknowingly each made up different stories of where I had been. Collectively, my colleagues and students thought I had a really bad flu, major family issues, had quit, had quit after making a huge and eloquent scene in the front office by giving everyone a piece of my mind about the state of education, and teaching belly dancing lessons in the Caribbean wearing nothing but a couple of coconuts and a grass skirt (I was the only one actively trying to spread that last one).
I just don’t have it in me to be embarrassed about having an illness. I haven’t been able to be ashamed of something that is out of my control. I want people to talk. One of the unique traits of mental illness is that a person really can’t understand it unless they have been through it. It is so very important to find those people who understand…….because if one more person tells me, “You need to get out of that bed, hop in the shower, and go for a nice brisk walk if you want to feel better,” I will get stabby.