Why having a mental disorder doesn't define you

Why having mental disorders doesn’t define me.

I have alluded to in previous posts (here and here) about personally suffering from mental disorders. Today I’m going to expand on that. It’s about to get personal and vulnerable.

 

Yup. I’m going there.

 

A while back, on Bell’s Let’s Talk day, I decided to share a picture I sketched 15 years ago; a picture and a caption regarding my struggles with mental health. In turn, some of my friends and family, very bravely and in solidarity, outed their own struggles with mental disorders. I was in awe of their courage.

 

And I was encouraged.

 

I believe the only way we’re going to end the stigma of mental disorders is by talking about it.

The only way we can gain the courage to talk about mental disorders is when we realize there are a LOT of other people who struggle in the same ways. 1 in 3 women suffer from a mental disorder and according to WHO, 350 MILLION people, globally, of all ages, suffer from depression and it is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

 

Take a look at what is going on in the news right now and I know you’ll agree that there is a desperate need to address the undiagnosed and untreated mental health disorders that are running rampant across the globe.

 

We need to start talking about it. Every single one of us.

 

We need to start a quiet revolution where we communicate with every person in our life about the importance of our mental health and theirs. Once we(society) start talking about it, I know we can end the stigma that prevents so many people from getting help.

 

I don’t share my story in search of sympathy or for comparison purposes (an insidious foothold of depression), I tell it with the hope that it gives others the courage to say: “Me too.”

Why I don't let having mental disorders define me
I have been diagnosed with the following at various points in my life: dysthymia since puberty with episodes of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, seasonal affective disorder, antenatal/postpartum depression and I am a recovered bulimic. I was hospitalized for an attempted suicide when I was 20. I’ve received intensive counselling and therapy since my mid teens and have been on and off anti-depressants/anti-anxiety meds for the last 13 years.

 

My mental disorders are a part of my everyday life, but they don’t DEFINE me.

Daily, I fight with every fibre of my being to prevent depression and anxiety from stealing the essence of who I am. So even though society sees people who have a mental disorder as weak, it has actually transformed me into a warrior.

 

I have overcome the lowest lows. I recognize what my triggers are and I know how to prevent them and fight back. I am continuously looking for new methods of battling the darkness. When old strategies don’t work, I find new ones. When life feels unbearable, I know I have the strength to get through it; because I’ve done it before.
 When life feels unbearable, I know I have the strength to get through it; because I've done it before.
My suffering has made me more compassionate and empathetic.
Suffering has made me less judgemental because I know that EVERYONE is fighting a battle.

 

I guess you can say that suffering has made me a better person.

 

The more I talk about my disorders, the less shame I feel about them. The more I share my struggles, the more I encounter others who say: “me too”. When sufferers recognize the connection between themselves it’s liberating. We don’t feel alone. We see that there are people who suffer, yet they are strong. We realize we can be strong too.

 

I want to live the rest of my life, climbing every soap box I can, passionately proclaiming:
that having a mental disorder doesn’t:
DEFINE you,
it doesn’t deny you the right to live a joyful life.
It doesn’t make you unloveable.
It doesn’t make you a burden.
It doesn’t mean you will never reach your full potential and realize your dreams.

 

I’m chasing my dreams and I’m not going to let any diagnosis get in the way of that.

I have to constantly shush the Statler and Waldorf commentary inside my head in order to do it, though. I CHOOSE to drown out the: “You’re not good enough to pull this off! You’re going to fail! No one cares what you have to say! You’re brain’s too broke!” Heckles. Because, damn it, I want it. I want to live an unreservedly joyful life pursuing my passions and I’m going too.

I was just reading my journal from last fall. At the time I was recording thoughts and research about this whole blogging venture. I was rather prolific and randomly filled 3 notebooks. I recently thought it might be a good idea to organize all those very scattered entries.

 

As I was doing so, I stumbled across a hastily written note that I scribbled to myself. I had apparently forgotten about it, and as I re-read it, felt it was exactly everything I needed to hear.

 

Thanks, Past Naomi.

 

The note reads:

 

“There will be times you feel depressed. There will be a LOT of times you will feel anxious. You will have to delve into your trusted therapeutic practices and avoid triggers when feeling vulnerable. You will have to protect your mental health for all its worth. You will have to do the absolute best you can with the resources you have available. You have it in you to succeed if you try your hardest.

 

<insert Rocky theme song>

 

…Having a mental disorder does not mean I will fail at blogging. It does not mean I will have to fear a significant relapse thus ‘destroying’ this dream. It does not mean that having social anxiety will prevent me from interacting and engaging with a community of readers.

 

It means: I will have to be highly aware of the stressors I allow into my life. It means I will have to work hard every day to overcome my feelings of fear that I will not be able to do this. It means that I will have to constantly and carefully push myself outside my comfort zone in pursuit of the life I know I am capable of living.

 

I, Naomi (she who is not defined by her mental disorders), am the author of my own fate. I feel my life has funnelled me into this path, writing this blog and sharing my experiences.

 

I want to broadcast to anyone who will listen that now is the time to realize your potential, now is the time to silence the dark voices that are telling you that you are too broken to live the life you want.

 

Fight the darkness and you will be rewarded with light.

<insert picture of me all sweaty with my hands in the air, victorious, on parliament steps, re-enacting Rocky>”

 

So yeah. It was a rather…… dramatic journal entry.

 

But it was something I desperately needed to be reminded of.

So. Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about mental health. Can you say: “Me too.”?

 

If you can, I encourage you to tell someone you love. There’s a chance they can relate. If you want to talk about it here, I would be honoured. Do you struggle? What positive coping mechanisms do you use? Are you chasing your dreams no matter what diagnosis you have? Comment below; I would love to use this space to break down some stigma and build each other up!
Why having a mental disorder doesn't define you

Comments

  1. Shandra

    Me too!!! Mental Health and Illness is so important to talk about. the more we talk about it the more the stigma goes away. I believe that exposure is essential in getting over prejudices. I’m not fond of my illness but we’ve come to an understanding and I work with what I’ve been given. and i talk about it… life’s too short to go around pretending and feeling alone.

    1. Author
      Naomi

      Thanks for sharing Shandra. You’re such an inspiration to me! If we keep talking, sharing our stories with the people in our lives, I know it will make a difference! In my experience, living authentically (mental health issues and all!) is the only way to experience joy and hope. xox (thanks for commenting! It means a lot to me!)

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