As a person living with schizophrenia, I am thoroughly convinced that going public with my diagnosis was the right idea. I stand behind my ideals because it is not fair for our culture to make us the target of ridicule and shame. Being authentic is the only thing that matters. We were born this way, mutant and proud. As the day we were born. Each and every one of us.
People assumed that since I worked in medicine I had an abundance of support, but to be honest I believe I felt more pressure to keep my dark friend hidden. There is even a stigma that exists in the medical field because mental health disorders still come with a lack of understanding and fear. They are not necessarily something you can see with an ultrasound or view under a microscope, so it is that unknown that causes misunderstanding.
Since my depression and mental breakdown, my life has changed. One aspect is how I now see myself and others. Kindness has become an important aspect of life that I now recognize more readily. I have a more complete understanding of myself and the world around me. Being kind is so important. It’s the most powerful way to have a positive impact on people. And it’s readily accessible to all.
A child with anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder lives with emotions that play tricks and surprises on them. A panic attack comes on without warning in the middle of recess; the crushing weight of depression makes getting out of bed impossible, much less going to school; mania shows up without warning in the form of extreme irritability and anger that is targeted at friends and family.
As a registered nurse of 17 years I have worked with many patients who had a mental health diagnosis, but had I not looked at their chart I would have never known. I cannot even count on my two hands how many patients I have cared for whom were struggling. The fact of the matter is they are out there and by being silent we close a door that needs to be open.
I started speaking openly about depression and anxiety the moment I realized that sharing my experiences would help others in the same boat. It was important to me that they know that they’re not alone. If I had someone that talked to me when I was a youngster about his or her own encounters with despair, suicidal ideation and worthlessness, I believe I wouldn’t have white-knuckled my way through life, anticipating a tragedy every moment. I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself if I’d known I was dealing with a real illness, not something I conjured up.
Having taken steps to improve my wellbeing through therapy and medication, the purchase of a medical bracelet and wallet card felt like the next appropriate move. I doubt that few will notice the eighth-inch high font at my wrist, but to a person trained to look for it, those thirteen letters engraved to the right of the Rod of Asclepius just might save my life.
There is one week left of Mental Health Awareness Month, and we want to keep up the conversation about fighting stigma and discrimination!
My husband and I raised a seemingly happy, healthy, and talented son, who flourished throughout his childhood until his freshman year of college. Beneath his tall, handsome, athletic, easy-going exterior was constant emotional turmoil. To everyone else, he was called the “golden boy” and it seemed like he had it all, but inside he was struggling with crippling swings of anxiety and depression.